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10 Feb 2015

Belarus, EU complete food safety program

MINSK, 10 February (BelTA) – Belarus and the European Union have completed the three-year program “Support to Quality Infrastructure in Belarus -Food Safety”. On 10 February equipment was handed over to the laboratory of the Belarusian State Institute of Metrology (BelGIM), BelTA has learned.

BelGIM’s laboratory is one of the three laboratories complying with the standards of the European Union and international standards.

The program “Support to Quality Infrastructure in Belarus-Food Safety” was launched in 2011. The total cost of the program was estimated at €8.5 million. The funds were provided by the European Union. Over €3 million of the amount was spent on purchasing the equipment for the laboratories. The program helped strengthen technical competency, services provision capacity and management practices of the three laboratories - respectively those operating under Gosstandart (BelGIM’s Laboratory for the Testing of Food and Agricultural products), the Agriculture and Food Ministry, and the Healthcare Ministry. The ultimate goal of the effort was to introduce modern analysis methods satisfying the applicable EU requirements.

“Thanks to the program, the country’s food safety watchdogs, food producers and other organizations received useful and relevant information, learned about the latest European food production and safety technologies, improved their practices in the field of accreditation and surveillance. As we increased the capacity of the three laboratories and adopted the best practices of the European Union, we got an opportunity to establish a system of national reference laboratories with the ultimate goal to improve the quality of laboratory control of food products,” Chairman of the State Committee for Standardization of Belarus Viktor Nazarenko said.

According to him, this was a very useful and relevant project. “In fact, we are seeking not only to harmonize food safety requirements within the framework of the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, but also to adopt international, single standards,” he noted. This is equally important for all – Belarus, the Customs Union, and the European Union, as it allows removing technical barriers in trade. “This opens up an opportunity to compete openly and fairly,” Viktor Nazarenko said.

Charge d'Affaires of the EU delegation in Belarus Richard Rudolph noted that since December 2011 the partners had done a lot of work that concluded by transferring the equipment to the three Belarusian laboratories. “I am convinced that the program will help Belarusian food manufacturers to expand their export opportunities on the markets of the European Union and third countries, to enhance trust and to improve the reputation of Belarus-made products on the domestic and foreign markets,” he said.

As of today, the laboratories are ready to control the quality and safety indicators of bottled water, fish, meat and milk exportable products and identify micotoxines, residues of organic and inorganic contaminating substances, residues of pesticides and pharmacologically active substances using internationally recognized methods. BelGIM’s laboratory, for example, is equipped with highly-efficient chromatographs and various kinds of auxiliary equipment.

The overall objective of the program is to improve Belarusian food safety and quality through a gradual alignment of the country’s Quality Infrastructure system with the relevant EU and international regulatory and administrative practices. It was implemented within three years by an international consortium that included companies from Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The French standardization association AFNOR was the leading partner of the program. Belarus was represented by the State Committee for Standardization, the Agriculture and Food Ministry, and the Healthcare Ministry. The program was structured into four components: accreditation and market surveillance, improvement of the laboratory network and capacity building of the food processing industry.

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