As of this week, Laos has launched its first official National Food Safety Laboratory in Vientiane. The much needed two-storey building boasts 25 laboratories equipped with sophisticated testing platforms, and will serve as a reference centre for the control of food quality across the nation.
The US$1.5 million project began construction in 2015, receiving 1,200 m2 through grant assistance provided by the French not-for-profit Fondation Merieux (Merieux Nutri Sciences), as part of the organization’s commitment to protecting the global population from food-borne diseases.
Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong conveyed that the laboratory was extremely important to food quality control system development in Laos, and that the spread of infectious disease by tainted food is still very much present due to the lack of a food quality control system.
According to the World Health Organisation, foodborne diseases still remains a global public health threat. In SouthEast Asia, foodborne diseases have caused 175,000 deaths annually. The region contributes to one third of global deaths due to diarrhea in children under five years of age.
A senior official from the Ministry of Health explained that the aim of the laboratory is to shield local populations against food borne diseases by analyzing and certifying the quality of imported, exported and domestic food supplies.
Food-borne illnesses are primarily caused by contamination of harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. Certain risks may also emerge during processing, transportation or improper food storage and production processes through poor handling.
Microbial and chemical risks can be introduced as early as the farm stage, by being exposed to industrial waste or poultry farm waste contaminating the irrigation of crops.
Merieux Foundation delivers a vast range of testing and consulting services for food safety and nutrition, agrochemical, environmental, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries worldwide.
In past years, the food security control for Laos has heavily relied on health systems of its neighboring countries.