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The Pasteur lab protecting people

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The laboratory has a ‘mission to assist all food operators to detect, control and prevent food-borne diseases’. Photo supplied

The Pasteur lab protecting people

Named in honour of 19th century French scientist Louis Pasteur – the “father of microbiology” – the Institut Pasteur is a French non-profit private foundation dedicated to the study of biology, micro-organisms, diseases and vaccines.

Opened in 1953, the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge is the oldest and most respected research and public health institute in the Kingdom.

One of the key areas the institute works in is improving food safety and environment security in Cambodia, with the Laboratory of Environment and Food Safety.

With a “mission to assist all food operators to detect, control and prevent food-borne diseases from farm to table and to provide quality and healthy foods”, the head of the lab says it is on the frontline of ensuring the food we eat is not contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins and chemicals.

“The lab was created in 1995 in order to improve public health regarding food safety. It’s really important especially for Cambodian people because hygiene levels in Cambodia are still limited, and it’s one of the big issues regarding the country’s economic growth.

“The lab has improved this situation by providing training on personal hygiene and food safety to caterers, hotels and food suppliers.

“In addition, the results of food testing from our lab is information for food producers alerting them to take action on time in order to prevent food-borne diseases from affecting their customers,” said Sreng Navin, head of the Environment and Food Safety Laboratory.

One in 10 people in the world fall ill every year from eating or drinking contaminated food or water, with 420,000 people dying each year as a result, the lab says, and Navin said it carries out a number of analyses to protect against this.

The lab undertakes such tests as microbiological tests for food and food products; microbiological and physico-chemical tests for different types of water; and the working environment with air and surface controls.

As well as testing, it also carries out services such auditing, training and consulting on food hygiene in the production chain.

“We provide hygiene auditing for food producers to find problems in their processes and to take corrective action according to our comments in order to improve the safety of their food.

“For training, we provide mostly the training on personal hygiene and food safety. However, we adapt with the requirements of the customer if they are from catering, hotels or agriculture,” Navin said.

And it is not just in food safety where the lab is protecting the people of Cambodia, with a strong focus on environment security.

“Regarding environment security, our lab participates actively on water analysis in order to alert the user on the safety of water and contamination, especially with heavy metals. Concerning food producers, our lab assists in controlling their working environment by providing services such as surface and air controls.

Navin said the lab is committed to ensuring the highest standards and staying at the forefront of developments.

“In order to ensure the accuracy of our results, our lab follows the international standard method for food and water analysis, and we are in the process of receiving ISO 17025 lab accreditation – the international norm specified for the competency of laboratory analysis,” said the Doctor of Pharmacy, who holds a PhD in Biology from France.

The lab checks hygiene levels and its qualified experts audit caterers, supermarkets and food industries, while implementing and documenting HACCP concepts and implementing quality assurance systems.

It can also carry out training for management and staff on Good Hygienic Practices, while knowledge of the food laws and labelling requirements in Europe and the US, as well as the specific regulations of all countries, ensures international standards.

With such an important role to play – and high standards to maintain – Navin said she is delighted to be helping protect people in the Kingdom.

"I'm proud to work at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge Laboratory of Environment and Food Safety because I work in a laboratory that has the highest standards – one that is in the process of getting ISO 17025 accreditation.

“I am also proud to participate directly in improving the public health of my people, especially regarding food safety,” Navin said.

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