Health & Safety
What Do FW&E Laboratories Do?
Dec 31 2022
In the UK, the government’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has tasked certain food, water and environmental (FW&E) laboratories with the job of environmental food and drink monitoring in the country. These bodies are not only responsible for carrying out regular, robust testing on food and water production and processing facilities, but also providing training, education and cutting-edge research into the best practices in the industry.
Alongside the Food Standards Agency and local authorities, the UKHSA works with the NHS to ensure that all safety parameters are followed in the UK. As such, they provide an extremely important service in minimising the risk of foodborne illnesses and advancing our understanding of how best to detect environmental hazards in foods before they are released to the market. Here are some of the activities that FW&E labs engage in:
Advanced microbiological testing
The three FW&E sites across England primarily provide specialist microbiological testing services for all food, water, dairy and environmental samples that are delivered to them. They are accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) and have attained ‘Official Control’ status, meaning the procedures they follow comply with the most stringent national and international guidelines.
As authorities on the subject of health and safety within the food industry, FW&E labs are also in a position to advise other parties on the types of pathogens, toxins and bacteria which may be found in food environments. They can also provide information on the various health risks that these pose, as well as the most effective and efficient methods for detecting them.
As well as written and verbal guidance, FW&E can also provide practical training courses for the staff of local and port health authorities. This ensures that there are trained and experienced professionals working in all sectors of the industry, so that best practices are followed and standards are maintained throughout the entirety of the food and drink industry and its various supply chains.
Analysis of test results
After performing testing, or after acquiring the results of tests performed by other bodies, FW&E labs can provide in-depth analysis of the results. These interpretations can then be used as evidence in court cases over food poisoning or environmental contamination, either by individual plaintiffs or by whole organisations.
Public health investigations
By conducting surveys and developing model pathways, FW&E labs can determine how changes to existing practices may affect public health in the long run. This can include anything from new products on the market, new trade deals with other nations, new production and processing protocols or new legislation surrounding the subject.
Research and development
FW&E labs are at the cutting edge of new research into food safety in the UK. This encompasses such concepts as the hardware and software used in smart water data management, the detection of emerging and evolving pathogens and the acceleration of test results analysis. As such, they are seen as guiding lights for the future of the food safety industry.
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