December 12, 2008

Northern Ireland to research for new animal feed tests


The Queen's University in Northern Ireland will research on new animal feed tests to prevent a repeat of the dioxin-tainted pork incident, according to Professor Chris Elliot from the university.

New tests of animal feed could protect the public from toxins in food, said Elliot.


Elliot said meat, milk, seafood and cereals would all be covered if the GBP 4 million (US$6 million) study is a success.


The study's main focus will be to develop highly innovative methods to detect natural toxins produced by plants and fungi, in a wide range of foods, said Elliot.


The study, also known as the Confidence project, will provide long-term solutions to contamination from pesticides, organic pollutants, heavy metals and other substances.


Elliot said regulatory authorities and the food industries spend large amounts of money to monitor the control the safety of both animal feed and food products. Elliot said the methods used are often expensive but could only detect one specific chemical, so there is an urgent need to replace current methods by validated screening tools that are simple, inexpensive and rapid and which are able to detect multiple contaminants.


Elliot said the presence of chemical contaminants in food is a major food safety concern, as seen with the recent dioxin-tainted Irish pork scare.


Though the chemical contaminants in food are fatal in only a small number of cases, the true effects of long-term exposure to the toxins are far from clear and may cause significant health risks, said Elliot.

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