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DOHA: The horsemeat scandal in Europe has triggered calls for setting up an advanced central laboratory in the country that can carry out all types of tests on food items.
Many citizens are asking why Qatar should wait for other GCC countries to take a decision on food-related issues and scandals in different parts of the world. The existing national food laboratory at the Supreme Council of Health does not have the technology to detect adulteration in meat products, a local Arabic daily reported yesterday, quoting a senior official of the Joint Food Monitoring Committee.
The official, however, added that the existing facility was being constantly upgraded with the acquisition of advanced equipment and technology. The committee issued a statement on Tuesday saying it had made a quality certificate mandatory for all meat and meat products imported into Qatar from European countries. Many citizens, however, feel such announcements usually come late.
“Why do we wait for a decision from the neighbouring countries or results from international laboratories to act on such issues? Why can’t we have a national laboratory capable of conducting such tests?”, the daily quoted a citizen as saying. Asked about this, Wassan Al Baker, director of the Environmental Health and Safety Department at the Supreme Council of Health, said Qatar was not taking decisions on its own because the issue is complex.
“We are not taking hasty decisions because of the complexities in the food industry, where things continue to change,” Al Baker told the daily. The national food laboratory at SCH conducts tests on about 20,000 food samples every year, she said.
No single laboratory can conduct all types of tests. Such facilities are available only in some referral laboratories in Europe, she noted. The tests in Qatar are mainly meant to identify pesticide residues in food as well as the presence of heavy metals and minerals, and to prevent food poisoning. She said there was a plan to set up a national health laboratory in Qatar, and the food laboratory was being continuously upgraded and renovated.