This morning, the Belize Agriculture and Health Authority’s central investigation Laboratory received a much needed machine for analytical testing in the food industry, agriculture, soils, animals and water. The state of the art equipment was donated by the European Union. Dr. Michael De Shield is the Director of the Food Safety Services at BAHA.

Dr. Michael Deshield – Director, Food Safety Services
“A lot of countries don’t have this and we are very fortunate to have the EU donate this to us through the Banana Support Program. It is an equipment that can detect heavy metals or elements and it can be used in a wide number of matrices, lots of different samples that we can test, chemicals and elements and so we can determine the contamination in food, in the environment and in many different areas.” Maria Novelo - Reporter Was this something that was in demand? Dr. Michael Deshield – Director, Food Safety Services “Yes. A lot of countries are getting more specific; people are very aware of food safety issues and are concerned about contaminants in food so more and more there is more push to get specialized equipment to give you specific levels that be contaminant that you could know that the food is contaminated with so that you get some assurance that the food that you are eating is safe. Initially you start out with some simple equipment but then you get better and better detection. Sometimes those equipment can’t pick up certain contaminants that will be harmful to you so there is more and more push to get better equipment to do specific testing so that you know exactly what you are dealing with in the foods. BAHA here at the Central Investigation Lab is the only food testing lab in the country and we will spend most of the time applying this equipment in the products that we export and some domestic products as well, what[s available for the consumers here because what is good for the export market is also good for the consumers here. We are going to be using it mainly in the foods that are offered to the consumers to make sure that it does not have these contaminants in but there is a lot of applicability in agriculture for fertilizers and we can do composition analysis in plant tissue to tell you what type of chemicals, you can use it in the environment for contaminants in the environment, we can test dust, air, all kinds of things with this equipment to see whether there is contaminants with elements in it. It is a first for us; our focus is the food and agriculture but it can be applied to the environment, in geology, for the oil industry, for a number of things we could use it for.”

The usefulness of the ICP-OES has already been seen by some of our local farmers, food processors, food importers and exporters. Food safety guidelines require that trade partners be able to detect certain metals at trace levels and report the levels of toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead. The significant laboratory analytical support that the ICP-OES will provide the food industry and its regulatory partners will go a long way to instil consumer confidence in our food and environmental health status. The donation from the European Union’s Banana Support Programme is over half a million Belize dollars.