Evira's laboratory survey completed

18.9.2008

<div>The laboratory survey initiated by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has been completed. The survey shows that the number of municipal laboratories has decreased significantly in the past 10 years with private laboratories taking over their services. The survey contains several proposals for the organisation of laboratory services. For example, it is suggested that the approval procedure for laboratories be relinquished in cases where it is not required by virtue of Community legislation. </div>

A minimum requirement for the selection of microbiological basic analyses is suggested for laboratories that analyse samples taken in connection with regulatory food control, to enable swift and purposeful initiation of tests during epidemics. This requirement would not apply to the expert laboratories and meat inspection laboratories covered by the survey.

The responsibility of municipalities and the government for the availability of laboratory services needed in environmental health care is emphasised. The survey report suggests that municipalities and the government recognise the changes that take place in the laboratory network and ensure the availability of basic laboratory services within a reasonable distance from the control units. The report also stresses the importance of taking the impacts of competition laws into account in the laboratory field.

Current status of laboratory network
Evira's register of approved laboratories contained a total of 103 laboratories (January 2008). Most of the laboratories, 86 in total (83 percent), had been approved by virtue of the Food Act. The number of laboratories approved by virtue of the Health Protection Act was 47 (46 percent). Most of the laboratories in Evira's register had approvals based on several different regulations.

The network of local environmental health care laboratories comprised in January 2008 21 municipal and 12 private laboratories. The foundation of the laboratory network consists of small municipal laboratories that carry out concise microbiological analyses on foodstuffs as well as on potable water and swimming water. These laboratories are located at reasonable distances from the control units. More demanding microbiological and chemical analyses were carried out by large municipal laboratories and private laboratories. The laboratory field is still undergoing changes. The local environmental health care laboratories play an important role as providers of the laboratory services needed by local authorities and operators.

Need for and availability of laboratory services
The survey assessed the annual analysis needs based on different regulations. It can be concluded on the basis of replies received to enquiries targeted at authorities and major companies in the food industry as well as information obtained from central authorities that the demand for required regulatory analyses is quite small (a total of ca. 730000 analyses) in comparison with the supply of laboratory services. There is clearly oversupply of the most common analyses.

The laboratory survey investigated the need for and the availability of laboratory services related to the analytics of foodstuffs, feeds, fertiliser products, household water and swimming water, as well as to the national salmonella control programme. The survey focused on local environmental health laboratories, which analyse the regulatory samples taken by virtue of the Food Act and the Health Protection Act. The survey was conducted in cooperation with the National Product Control Agency for Welfare and Health and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

Evira's laboratory survey report is published on Evira's web site at (in Finnish): http://www.evira.fi/portal/fi/evira/tilauspalvelu/julkaisut___publikationer___publications/eviran_julkaisuja_2008/

For more information, please contact:
Maija Hatakka, Director, Evira, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24246
Tarja Hartikainen, Expert in Environmental Healtch Care, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, tel. +358 (0) 50 373 8499
Jarkko Rapala, Senior Inspector, the National Product Control Agency for Welfare and Health, tel. +358 (0) 9 3967 2810



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