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World's Largest Food Safety Lab Opens Doors in France

With tainted fruits and vegetables sending scares across the globe, worried food authorities can welcome the inauguration of the world's largest private laboratory performing safety analysis on food. But don't expect them to announce the

Salmonella infecting a human cell
Salmonella infecting a human cell

Worldcrunch *NEWSBITES

NANTES - The E. coli crisis that killed 52 people in Germany last spring has now been followed by a deadly outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe in the United States that has killed 13 people so far. The risks of tainted food – and the ability to rapidly and accurately identify the source of contamination – is a hot topic indeed.

So just in time comes the inauguration of Eurofins' new site, the world's largest independent laboratory specializing in microbial testing of foods. Located in the western French city of Nantes, the new lab specializes in the analysis of bacteria found in foods, including listeria, salmonella, E. coli, and staphylococci. The new lab unit will culture more than 10,000 petri dishes with microbes daily, offering its clients a choice of three different types of methods with a price ranging from 20 to 200 euros.

The challenge of locating the exact origin of contaminated food was highlighted during the E.coli crisis that broke out in northern Germany in May. German health authorities initially erroneously blamed the outbreak on Spanish cucumbers, eventually tracing it back to bean sprouts that had found their way into the European market from Egypt.

With growing global trade, the risk of food contamination with emerging microbiological pathogens increases, threatening not only public health, but also the food industry's bottom line.

In Europe, the industry is held responsible for their commercial products, which is why they look to private labs to perform analyses to ensure that their products adhere to the high standards of the food industry's regulatory guidelines. The food industry has been routinely self-regulating itself, mainly as a matter of prevention.

"Only in the event of a major food crisis do the public agencies directly intervene," says Jean-Yves Denis, director of the microbiology at Eurofins.

Communicating to the public the results of their analyses is not their business. "As a lab, we do the measurements, but do not report on the outcome," says Fayçal Bellatif, the company's marketing director. "We are beholden to protect industry secrets. In the end it is up to the food companies to disclose the results of our analyses."

The worldwide market of food safety analysis is estimated at 1.5 billion euros. Eurofins, the private company that will offer this service, is a global leader in the food analysis sector and one of the largest of its kind in northern Europe. They have developed their own extensive network of collection hubs throughout France to enable quick delivery of samples, which is critical to this type of time-sensitive research. Besides France, Eurofins also has labs based in 28 other countries.

Conducting analyses of microbes represents only about a third of all analyses performed by the lab. It is also specialized in identifying genetically modified crops, analyzing chemical contamination like pesticides, allergens, heavy metals, acrylamide and melamine, which have been found in tainted milk products from China.

Read more from Le Figaro in French

photo - Nutloaf

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why I Fled: Meet The Russian Men Choosing Exile Over Putin's War

After Vladimir Putin announced a national military draft, thousands of men are fleeing the country. Independent Russian news platform Vazhnye Istorii spoke to three men at risk of conscription who've already fled.

A mobilized man says goodbye to his daughter in Yekaterinburg.

Vazhnye Istorii

A mix of panic, violence and soul-searching has followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization of 300,000 men to fight the increasingly difficult “special operation” in Ukraine.

Soon after the announcement, protests were reported in Moscow and around the country, with at least 2,000 people being detained during the past several days. It is still unclear how successful these protests will be.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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More notably, the mobilization decree also prompted more than 260,000 men of conscription age to leave left the country. Observers believe that number will continue to grow, especially as long as the borders stay open. Almost all men aged 18-65 are eligible, but some professions, including banking and the media, are exempt.

Vazhnye Istorii, an independent Russian investigative news platform based in Latvia, spoke to three of the many thousands who have chosen to flee the country.

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