Monday, November 26, 2012

AVA adopts new technology on food screening system

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food  Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has added a new line of defence to its food screening system.

Dubbed the 'non-targeted' approach, which utilises High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) Technology, this form of food safety screening will allow the detection of contaminants that are not usually targeted in screenings and complements already existing modes of screening.

This screening on top of the traditional 'targeted' approach where the machines are calibrated to detect usual suspects and in the process, possibly ignore abnormalities.

The 'non-targeted' form of screening is usually carried out on inherently high-risk foods such as meat, ready-to-eat food and cultured seafood, or food deemed high-risk due to consumers who are potentially more sensitive to contaminants, such as baby-milk powder and baby food.

Facilities for this new technology has been in the pipeline since 2010 and over the past two years.

AVA has been acquiring the technology, built a database of about 11,000 compounds, and developing and fine-tuning its analytical procedures.

Singapore is among the few countries that are exploring HRMS technology. Other laboratories which are adopting similar approaches are mostly in Japan, the European Union, and the United States.

Such emerging technologies and innovations to enhance food safety are being shared by scientists and researchers at the 6th Asian Conference on Food and Nutrition Safety.

Speaking at the conference, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Maliki Osman elaborated on the importance of food safety.

Dr Maliki Osman said: "With easy access to information via the internet and other social media platforms, our consumers are now more aware of health issues and possible health risks from food. I believe that greater consumer awareness is a good thing, but we should be cautious of sensational or inaccurate reports which could undermine consumer confidence in food safety."

Dr Ch'ng Ai Lee, Deputy Director of Laboratories Department, Veterinary Public Health Lab, said: "Previously, our approach is to look at known food-borne hazards. So anything that is unusual, just like melamine, we will not be looking for. But with the new approach we are looking for everything that could be there. So we should not miss items like melamine anymore."

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