Wageningen University to open new food safety research institute

Wageningen University to open new food safety research institute

16 Jan 2019 --- RIKILT Wageningen University & Research and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA)’s Laboratory for Food and Feed Safety will merge into a new institute effective from June 2019. The institute will be called Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR) and will be part of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), based in the Netherlands. The new institute will seek tocan carry out lab work for the NVWA and the Dutch central government in a more effective and knowledge intensive manner.

Knowledge institute

With the merger of the two organizations, the Netherlands will be welcoming a unique knowledge institute for food and feed safety. 

This merger will seek to enhance knowledge in the area of food and feed safety, as well as knowledge of food fraud. Wageningen Food Safety Research is to act as an “important resource” during incidents and crises that affect the NVWA, the ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (MZS), as well as play a role during environmental, poisoning and food contamination incidents, according to the university. WFSR will also function as an international and European reference laboratory.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, RIKILT Wageningen University & Research Director Robert van Gorcom, says: “Food safety is a continuous area of concern. There are many changes that affect food safety and should be dealt with, including climate change, new production techniques, novel food products and consumption patterns. Consumer behavior and the globalization of food production/supply also have an impact on circular economy/agriculture. Consumers expect a zero risk with food, which causes big concerns with the smallest incidents, and the industry must react.”

Click to EnlargeRob van Lint (NVWA), Louise O. Fresco (WUR) & Rens Buchwaldt (WUR) sign the documents.The new institute combines the activities of two current organizations: Firstly, the laboratory feed and food safety of the Netherlands food safety authority NVWA which is primarily focused on the official food control in the Netherlands. Secondly, the Wageningen University & Research institute RIKILT, which focuses on the official control of feed, all forensic analyses for the government in the agro domain. 

“Twelve NRL tasks and two EURL tasks and also has substantial research activities with links to universities, EU and other subsidy funds and precompetitive PPP projects,” van Gorcom notes. “RIKILT also has a national emergency laboratory role outside the food safety and food fraud domain, such as environmental incidents, nuclear incidents and terrorist attacks.”

The new institute will employ over 350 technicians and researchers and will be the biggest analytical institute/laboratory in the non-commercial domain in the Netherlands, according to van Gorcom. The merger will seek to create new research opportunities, especially in the field of food microbiology and food virology. Collaborations within WUR will also increase by the addition of new activity fields, he explains. 

“The project is a merger of two existing organizations and any efficiency gain will be reinvested in the knowledge development of the institute. No jobs will be lost and new funds will have to be found from subsidy bodies,” he adds. 

Close collaboration

RIKILT (230 employees) and the Laboratory for Food and Feed Safety (130 employees) are located in the same building and have been working closely together for some time already.

The merger progressed after an extended process, part of which was the political decision made in June 2018 that was confirmed in a letter to parliament by the ministers of LNV and MZS.

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