Food safety

Various microbiological, parasitological, chemical, and molecular biological analyses are performed in the Veterinary and Food Laboratory to determine the quality and safety of food, feed, water, and alcohol. In addition, the laboratory’s service portfolio includes analyses of production environment samples and predictive microbiology based on mathematical prediction models to determine the approximate shelf life of food.

The competence covering chemical and molecular biological analyses of food, feed, and alcohol is concentrated in the Tartu laboratory. Conventional microbiological and parasitological (Trichinella spp.) tests are performed in all four laboratories. In addition to performing the analyses, it is possible to get advice from our specialists on the choice of analyte and the interpretation of analysis results.

National responsibilities

The Veterinary and Food Laboratory has a cooperation agreement with the Veterinary and Food Board for the analysis of samples taken in the course of state supervision and the monitoring of zoonotic pathogens and contaminants. On the basis of the Food Act and the Feed Act, the Veterinary and Food Board has authorised the Veterinary and Food Laboratory to analyse samples taken during official control and other official acts. The laboratory has also been granted the right to operate as an authorised laboratory in the field of alcohol analysis by the Minister of Agriculture on the basis of the Alcohol Act. The scope of the authorisation is set out below.

In addition, the Veterinary and Food Laboratory carries out compositional and quality analyses of products in the framework of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 on the common organisation of the markets in agricultural products.

In the field of zoonotic pathogens of animal origin, the laboratory cooperates with the Health Board.

The laboratory ensures a continuous readiness for the detection of pathogens causing possible foodborne outbreaks, such as Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, pathogenic Escherichia coli, Campylobacter spp., Yersinia enterocolitica, Cronobacter spp., and others. In addition, the Molecular Analysis Department has developed a typing capability based on the whole genomic sequencing of pathogens, which allows for more accurate identification of possible transmission pathways.

Services to the sector

In addition to performing national tasks, the Veterinary and Food Laboratory provides services to food and feed business operators and other interested parties.

In order to determine the shelf life of food based on evidence, the Tartu laboratory uses mathematical prediction models. In addition, it has developed the ability to perform challenge tests.

Cooperation with other laboratories

The Veterinary and Food Laboratory has an extensive international network of contact laboratories to which samples can be sent in cases where the necessary analytical methods are not available on site or where additional expertise has become necessary. Most of our international partners are either reference laboratories or internationally recognised competence centres.

Research cooperation

The research of the Veterinary and Food Laboratory is usually carried out in collaboration with national research institutes, reference laboratories, or other international partners.