By: Carl Sciacchitano
FDA and public health officials in Mexico are working together to increase the capacity and capabilities of laboratories used to test the safety of foods.
In January, 2012, FDA scientists met with Mexico’s National Service of Health, Food Safety and Agro-Alimentary Quality (SENASICA) officials to better understand laboratory operations, practices, methods and quality assurance. Our scientists were also able to visit the SENASICA laboratories and discuss opportunities that would enhance laboratory collaboration and capacity building efforts.
FDA’s 2011 special report, “Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality,” states that the agency will partner with nations around the world to enhance global product safety and quality. Additionally, FDA recently released its International Food Safety Capacity-Building Plan that addresses both the acceptance of laboratory methods across the international community and the exchange of information on current and new laboratory methods.
In Mexico, the key objectives of this FDA/SENASICA collaboration include improving communications and laboratory capacity, consulting with SENASICA on the development, validation and implementation of testing methods, and participation in proficiency programs.
To reach our joint goals, the FDA/SENASICA Laboratory Capacity Collaboration Program (LCCP) has been established to enhance our collective ability to strengthen laboratory capacity and capabilities in effective and sustainable ways.
LCCP participation includes our experts from FDA’s Office of International Programs in Mexico City, Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA), and Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). Working with representatives from the SENASICA National Laboratories, these experts formed a cohesive unit and prioritized key leveraging opportunities to enhance public health through the LCCP. Highlights of LCCP’s work include:
- In March 2012, FDA’s Northeast Regional Laboratory (NRL) hosted a Mexican delegation of laboratory experts representing SENASICA’s three main laboratories. NRL provided an overview of FDA’s food testing laboratory, highlighting microbiological and chemical (food and drug) disciplines. NRL scientists shared methods currently used by FDA for the analysis of microbiological and chemical contaminants in foods under FDA’s jurisdiction. A portion of the visit was devoted to discussion and observation of the equipment, laboratory environment and methods used to perform these analyses. Communication channels were created to enhance collaboration.
- This effort between FDA and SENASICA scientists was very timely as SENASICA is pursuing efforts to strengthen its laboratory infrastructure for microbiological testing. The information shared by our FDA scientists directly impacted SENASICA’s early thinking and understanding, resulting in the development of a state-of-the art microbiological testing laboratory. This laboratory will monitor the safety conditions of food during production, processing and packaging through the microbiological analysis of water, fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) and environmental samples of risk areas. In December 2012, we participated in the laboratory opening ceremony in Mexico City. The opening of this laboratory highlights the success of the LCCP efforts.
- Mexico’s Sinaloa state lab and FDA provided a training course for SENASICA microbiologists in December 2012 on Pulse-Field-Gel-Electrophoresis (PFGE) and serological techniques. Both techniques are staple methods utilized for the identification and traceback of bacterial strains – critical information that often augments foodborne outbreak investigations. The course was held in SENASICA’s new pathogen detection laboratory.
In 2013, our governments’ goal is to build on the progress from 2012 to enhance public health protection. Sharing information on best laboratory practices and collaborative efforts in method development and validation studies headline some of our key objectives for 2013.
Carl Sciacchitano is a Senior Advisor for Scientific International Affairs in FDA’s Office of International Programs