The expansion of the world agricultural market is increasingly driven by developing countries seeking to boost their economic growth. The EU, a strong proponent of trade for economic growth, is the largest consumer of exported agricultural goods from developing countries. However, the past few years have seen an increase in the number of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS)-related trade issues between the EU these exporting developing countries. Many of these issues have been related to microbiology controls in foodstuffs within the exporting developing countries and to the increased number of positive interceptions at the point of import into the EU.
Developing countries that aim to benefit from global food markets are obliged to adhere to international food safety standards, as all members of the WTO have the responsibility to adopt WTO trade rules and requirements, so that food exports will not be hindered in the long term. By complying with international food standards, technical barriers to trade are reduced and the benefits to developing countries numerous.
However, given that responding to market requirements is a difficult task for producers all over the world, it is even more so for producers in developing countries. They often face additional difficulties due to various technical constraints such as the lack of internationally recognized laboratories with appropriate testing equipment, weak regulatory environments and standards regimes, limited skills and training capacities, and limited access to financial resources and efficient technologies.
Lessons can be learned from the European experience where member states have evolved with effective laboratory testing conducted mainly by official laboratories that develop control methods and provide technical training to other privately-operated laboratories. In order to help developing countries comply with EU food safety requirements, the Trade Directorate-General of the European Commission funded a study tour to provide technical training to laboratory technicians in the field of microbiology analysis. Twenty developing countries participated in the trainings which allowed them to improve their knowledge of EU legislation in their area and the performance of analytical methods within the laboratory.
The Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA) possesses expertise in the development of Good Laboratory Practices and the provision of training with regard to EU legislation on food (and microbiological) standards. In consortium with DEVELOPMENT Solutions, which specialises in the organisation and implementation of technical assistance training for governments and the private sector in the international trade arena, they implemented the training (including laboratory tours and lectures) which provided a framework for an adequate and effective food control system.