x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

New lab set to begin vital food tests in UAE

A host of sophisticated laboratory tests, currently outsourced to facilities abroad, can soon be performed in Dubai, the head of a new laboratory has said.

DUBAI // Sophisticated food-safety and environmental tests could soon be performed in Dubai with the opening of a new laboratory.

Services will include testing for toxins released in water by algae. The tiny creatures live in water and need sunlight and inorganic nutrients such as nitrites, phosphates and sulphur to grow.

“They are so small, they are invisible to the naked eye,” said Dr N Upadhyay, managing director of the new laboratory, PSN Lifesciences International, at DuBiotech in Al Barsha.

Most algae are not a cause for concern but some can wreak havoc on eco-systems and threaten public health. Some can multiply so rapidly that they form an algal bloom, a phenomenon experienced on the east coast in 2008 and 2009 with catastrophic consequences for marine life and fisheries.

Other algae release toxins that contaminate seafood, producing symptoms in humans that range from nausea and abdominal cramping to paralysis, and cardiovascular and respiratory problems.

The issue is important to the UAE because of its abundant marine resources, but at the moment testing is carried out by laboratories in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The new laboratory will also be able to test for genetically-modified ingredients in food - a controversial issue in parts of the world where environmentalists and public-health campaigners object to the use of genetically-modified crops, such as corn and soybeans.

The European Union requires foods containing genetically-modified products to be clearly labelled, but the UAE does not.

The laboratory is awaiting accreditation and hopes to begin work within four months.

vtodorova@thenational.ae