Food scientists help Kurdistan improve safety systems


Experts at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Belfast have completed a significant contract designed to help Kurdistan upgrade its food safety systems to established European standards.

AFBI was helped to identify and secure the new business opportunity in Kurdistan by Invest Northern Ireland as part of its focus on encouraging and assisting trade with this region of Iraq.

Two senior AFBI staff, Dr Michael Rowe and Dr Sam Mitchell, carried out a survey of chemical and microbiological analytical and testing procedures, and equipment in Kurdistan’s three main laboratories for the Kurdistan Standardisation and Quality Control Administration (KSQCA). AFBI has extensive experience in carrying out similar expert investigations abroad, particularly in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Welcoming AFBI’s success, Tracy Meharg, Invest NI Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development, said: “This is another important business link developing from our strategic focus on Kurdistan.

“Over the past two years we have been assisting companies and professional organisations such as AFBI to explore the huge opportunities developing from Kurdistan’s drive to strengthen business and other relationships with Europe, and particularly the United Kingdom. This has included trade missions to the market and also hosting visits to Northern Ireland led by the Kurdistan Regional Authority.

“AFBI’s success is an excellent example of how our organisations can help Kurdistan achieve recognised international standards in crucially important areas such as food safety. Our contacts in Kurdistan enabled us to provide the lead which AFBI followed up successfully.”

Dr Rowe said: “The main objectives of the visit were to assess three laboratories, in Erbil, Sulaimani and Zahok, and determine what would be required both in terms of quality assurance systems and training to enable the laboratories to achieve essential ISO17025 accreditation. This is an international standard that specifies the general requirements for the competence of laboratories to carry out tests or calibrations.

“We were generally impressed by the quality of the equipment and the knowledge and competence of staff in the three labs. Our report has identified the steps they need to take, particularly in terms of staff training, to develop documentary and other procedures that will enable them to achieve and retain this recognised international accreditation.

“We were given a very wide ranging brief and provided with open access to all the laboratories and staff at every level. They were very hospitable and keen to work with us. Our aim is to develop a long-term relationship with the region as it seeks to achieve international quality accreditations.” added Dr Rowe.