ZIMBABWE/UGANDA – Zimbabwe’s Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL) and Uganda’s Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratories (DGAL) have successfully attained accreditation to the international standard for testing and calibration in laboratories.

This significant milestone was achieved with the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Achieving this accreditation is a pivotal goal for many testing and calibration laboratories across Africa. It not only demonstrates the laboratories’ competence but also increases confidence among clients and enhances the prospects of attracting resources through paid services.

Accredited laboratories are crucial in helping food traders access and sustain both national and international markets.

Strengthening capabilities and building confidence

In the face of limited resources, national testing and calibration laboratories such as CVL in Zimbabwe and DGAL in Uganda must explore mechanisms to attract funds to facilitate routine operations and ensure sustainable service delivery.

The support provided by the IAEA, in cooperation with the FAO, has significantly strengthened the capabilities of CVL and DGAL.

The CVL is now capable of regularly testing foods such as chicken for chemical hazards, providing end-users with more reliable analytical test results and creating greater consumer confidence.

Recently, CVL personnel were trained and provided with equipment through a regional AFRA food safety project involving Namibia and Zimbabwe, further enhancing their capabilities.

Additionally, the CVL recently achieved accreditation for some of the analytical techniques (radio-receptor assays using radiotracers such as C-14 and H-3) for milk and meat to ISO17025:2017, the international standard for testing and calibration laboratories, for an initial period of two years starting September 2023.

Supplying this service locally is faster, cheaper, creates financial opportunities for citizens, and reduces the double burden of costly outsourcing. It also mitigates the risk of spreading transboundary diseases through shipping biological materials across borders.

Enhancing laboratory services and regional cooperation

The services rendered by the laboratories will facilitate analytical cost recovery as companies pay for testing services.

Antimicrobial test results obtained from the national residue programme can now advise farmers on the appropriate use of chemicals in food production.

The laboratory continues to routinely assess its capabilities by participating in proficiency (blind) testing schemes supported by the IAEA technical cooperation programme, where the CVL has performed well.

Thanks to its strong quality management system, the CVL now shares best practices and related experience with others in the region, maximizing the use of regional resources.

Following the support provided to DGAL in Uganda, the institution attained ISO17025:2017 accreditation for 14 tests, including techniques for determining residues of pesticides in fruits and vegetables, persistent organic pollutants in fish and meat, and toxic metals such as lead.

Other tests include microbiology, toxicology, and DNA testing by six sections of the laboratory. This accreditation is for four years starting February 2024, enhancing confidence among users of the laboratory’s services, nationally and internationally.

Maintaining the accreditation means that laboratories must continuously improve their quality management system.

“The path to accreditation can be long and demanding, requiring rigorous training of personnel and establishment of equipment handled by well-trained personnel. We thank IAEA’s support in the process,” said Kepher Kuchana Kateu, Director of DGAL.

 “Excellence in analytical service delivery is required to maintain this status beyond the four years, and we are determined to keep the standards and provide laboratory leadership in the country and the region.”

DGAL plays a critical role in investigations including forensics, poisoning, paternity tests, and food safety.

With the IAEA’s support, which includes installation and building capabilities for the routine use of an inductively coupled mass spectrometer as well as the establishment of a laboratory information management system, the status of these laboratories is expected to be significantly enhanced and maintained.

“Accreditation not only boosts the credibility of these laboratories but also paves the way for better service delivery and regional cooperation,” said Anna Grigoryan, Programme Management Officer at the IAEA’s Department of Technical Cooperation.

The achievements of CVL and DGAL represent a significant step forward in strengthening the infrastructure and capabilities of national laboratories in Africa, ultimately contributing to improved food safety and public health in the region.

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