EUROFINS SCIENTIFIC : The sources of food contamination from around the world are far from drying up

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16 July 2009

On the day that the European Commission publishes its Annual Report for 2008 on the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), Eurofins comments on the number and nature of the alerts. Overall, the number of alerts has fallen significantly. This represents further progress for the safety of food in Europe, as a milestone of success for the food and feed producers and distributors, for Eurofins for its contribution through its testing programme and for the food testing market as a whole in the fight against fraud and contamination. However contamination still remains an issue, as the return to a higher number of alerts in the first half of 2009 illustrates. We have reviewed in a bit more detail below the nature and evolution of food safety risks described in the RASFF report, against which Eurofins works each day in order to help its clients guarantee that their products are healthy and safe.

Development of Alerts in 2008

One can see an important drop in the number of alerts in 2008 (528) when compared to 2007 (952) which can be explained principally by a stricter definition of what constitutes an alert (as compared to an 'information'), but more generally this is due to a combination of factors : a contraction in global trade, tighter control over the safety of raw materials closer to the source of supply and following a number of food scares around the world (products prevented from export), steady harmonisation of tests and the capacity to do testing in new eastern European Union countries (products blocked at the borders), continuing outsourcing of testing services by food producers in order to secure a high level of expertise and advice (prevention at source) and finally new European regulations in the areas of pesticides, heavy metals, labelling and food imports (strengthened controls that deter fraud).

The number of alerts registered during the year may be lower as a whole, but the source and type of contamination remain numerous and varied (see table below).

Development of the distribution of food alerts by type of risk

2008 2007
Microbiological risks (contamination and pathogens) 29% 29%
Foreign bodies 4% 9%
Food additives 2% 7%
Pesticide residues 3% 4%
Contact materials (migration) 11% 5%
Heavy metals 10% 9%
Undeclared substances (composition) 10% 7%
Mycotoxins 9% 8%
Organic and chemical contamination (dioxins, HAP, Melamine) 9% 7%
Veterinary residues 4% 3%

It can be seen that in 2008 the risks that were the easiest to prevent and control, such as microbiological risks and the risk of foreign bodies, remained stable or decreased as a percentage of the total. It is relatively easy to address these thanks to the application of regular, standardised testing. The strengthening of regulations in Europe served equally to reduce the risks associated with banned food additives or harmful pesticide residues. On the other hand there was an increase in the proportion of alerts related to more complex contamination, such as organic compounds, mycotoxins, heavy metals, veterinary residues and contact materials (migration), which require testing with the most up-to-date methods and equipment.

In summary, the risks develop and fluctuate in number but do not disappear. The sources of contamination evolve. Fraud involving the substitution of ingredients that are less expensive, illegal or unauthorised is found more frequently in regions of the world where legislation is at a low level, still being rolled out or where access to testing is limited. Throughout  2007, 2008 and now in the first half of 2009 traces of melamine, Sudan I and IV colorants and varieties of genetically-modified rice (LL601, Bt63) continue to be detected in products that are imported into the European Union. Indeed, so far in 2009 the RASFF alerts have increased by 40% when compared to the same period last year.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Dr Gilles Martin, CEO of the Eurofins Group commented "As the global leader in food testing services, Eurofins benefits from its strong long-term position and accumulated experience in testing the composition, safety and quality of food products and I am delighted to see that there has been a fall in reported food contamination in Europe. The efforts of our customers in this area have borne fruit, but there remains a lot for us to do still. There is still a huge demand for testing in the world that needs to be filled. Eurofins is investing a lot in order to be well positioned to provide a response to our customers' increasingly stringent requirements - those producers and distributors who are anxious to control the safety of their raw material supplies closer to the sources across Europe, Asia and the Americas."

For further information please contact:

Investor Relations

Phone:    +32-2-769 7383

E-mail:     ir@eurofins.com                                             

Notes for the editor:

Eurofins - a global leader in bio-analysis

Eurofins Scientific is a life sciences company operating internationally to provide a comprehensive range of analytical testing services to clients from a wide range of industries including the pharmaceutical, food and environmental sectors.

With about 7,000 staff in more than 150 laboratories across 30 countries, Eurofins offers a portfolio of over 25,000 reliable analytical methods for evaluating the authenticity, origin, safety, identity, composition and purity of biological substances and products. The Group is committed to provide its customers with high quality services, accurate results in time and, if requested, expert advice by its highly qualified staff.

The Eurofins Group is one of the global market leaders in this field of applied life sciences. It intends to pursue its dynamic growth strategy and expand both its technology portfolio and its geographic reach. Through R&D, in-licensing and acquisitions, the Group draws on the latest developments in the field of biotechnology to offer its clients unique analytical solutions and the most comprehensive range of testing methods.

As one of the most innovative and quality oriented international players in its industry, Eurofins is ideally positioned to support its clients' increasingly stringent quality and safety standards and the demands of regulatory authorities around the world.

The shares of Eurofins Scientific are listed on the NYSE Euronext Paris (ISIN FR0000038259) and Frankfurt (WKN 910251) Stock Exchanges (Reuters EUFI.LN, Bloomberg ERF FP, ESF, EUFI.DE).

Important disclaimer:

This press release contains forward-looking statements and estimates that involve risks and uncertainties. The forward-looking statements and estimates contained herein represent the judgement of Eurofins Scientific as of the date of this release. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees for future performance, and the forward-looking events discussed in this release may not occur. Eurofins Scientific disclaims any intent or obligation to update any of these forward-looking statements and estimates. All statements and estimates are made based on the data available to the Company as of the date of publication, but no guarantee can be made as to their validity.

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