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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Fougères Laboratory: 40 years dedicated to consumer safety

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News of 01/07/2015

ANSES's Fougères Laboratory is celebrating its 40-year anniversary today. It specialises in screening for veterinary drug residues in food, bacterial resistance to antibiotics and disinfectants, and toxicology. This event is an opportunity to look back on the last 40 years which have made the laboratory a benchmark in Europe and worldwide, and to reflect on its role in risk monitoring in the years to come. This anniversary is also an opportunity to celebrate the strengthened ties between ANSES and the Agri-Environment Health Institute, in the BioAgroPolis excellence cluster, as testimony to the laboratory's enduring presence in the region.

For 40 years, the Fougères Laboratory has carried out research on the analysis of veterinary drug residues, on characterisation of the effects of antimicrobials (antibiotics and biocides), and on characterisation of the toxicological hazards of contaminants. It also develops new toxicity prediction tools. 

Its move to the BioAgroPolis development centre, which was a project instigated by the Ille-et-Vilaine departmental council, has enabled the laboratory to strengthen its ties with the Agri-Environment Health Institute (ISAE). Major scientific partnerships have thus been established, including projects for Ecoantibio 2017 in particular.

Its various national and European reference mandates, its numerous local, national and international partnerships, as well as its investments in increasingly sensitive measurement methods for contaminant screening, are all proof of its commitment to ensuring consumer safety, a commitment which the laboratory intends to uphold in the coming years.

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics and disinfectants  

Antibiotic therapy was one of the major medical discoveries of the 20th century. Over the last several years, the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, both in humans and animals, has become a major concern for public and animal health, since it can lead to therapeutic dead-ends in the treatment of certain infections.  Resistance to disinfectants (biocides) is also becoming a major concern for the agri-food industry, healthcare establishments and farms. 

As the holder of a national reference mandate for antimicrobial resistance, the laboratory specialises in antibiotic and disinfectant use.  It studies their effects on bacteria and their influence on the development of resistance to antimicrobials. 

Residues and contaminants in foods: new research strategies

The risk of consumer exposure to veterinary medicinal product residues in milk, eggs and meat from treated animals has raised numerous questions since the 1970s. 

As National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for veterinary drug residues, the laboratory helps to improve residue analysis methods and provides the authorities with scientific and technical expertise. 

Improvements in analysis of the toxicity of low-dose substances and mixtures

Today, tests are becoming increasingly sensitive, which enables the detection of even the minutest amounts of many different substances. However, questions surrounding the health effects of substances, even those present in very low doses, still need to be dealt with. The same is true for mixtures of several different substances.

The work conducted by the laboratory makes it possible to analyse potential risks in our food and enables decision makers to take informed decisions on the measures to be implemented, whether at farm or production-chain level, based on reliable scientific data. 

What is the outlook for the coming years?

Faced with the challenge of emerging antimicrobial resistance phenomena, doctors and veterinarians must do their utmost to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics by selecting the right ones (when antibiotic use is indicated) as well as the proper treatment protocols. 

Resistance surveillance is essential to help inform practice and to adjust protocols to each specific case.

For the coming years, the laboratory has established three main areas on which to focus work:  

  • contribute to defining an antibiotic resistance control and monitoring plan;
  • guarantee the effectiveness of antimicrobial resistance detection analyses, with the support of a network of laboratories for their implementation;
  • understand selection, development and dissemination events in resistant bacteria and resistance genes, while accounting for the impact of other substances on these phenomena, through research work in partnership with other ANSES, EU and international laboratories.

Increasingly sophisticated residue analysis methods make it possible to screen for hundreds of substances with a single test. Used in the context of official inspections, these methods are now also used by food manufacturers. In the coming years, developments will be concentrated on constant improvement in the monitoring of consumer exposure to chemicals.

With regard to toxicology, the laboratory’s future work will increasingly consider low doses and substance mixtures.

In the last 40 years, the Fougères Laboratory has supported the implementation of national and European regulations that ensure food safety "from farm to fork". In keeping with the challenges of sustainable development, the laboratory will continue to pursue work on integrating the knowledge obtained through research to develop and implement methods that fulfil surveillance and vigilance requirements in the food production sector.