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Testing of Food and Food Products

The Veterinary Public Health Laboratory (VPHL), located at the AVA's Veterinary Public Health Centre (VPHC) at the Lim Chu Kang AgriBioPark, is the regulatory food analytical laboratory of the AVA. It offers a comprehensive range of analytical services covering a wide spectrum of chemical and microbiological hazards. Its capabilities cover tests for disease, food poisoning and spoilage organisms, harmful chemicals, toxins and economic fraudulence.

Our competent and professional staff adopts internationally recognised procedures and standards as well as state-of-the-art technology to provide a multidisciplinary laboratory service to the public and private sectors.

We support food supply and safety regulatory programmes through our testing and monitoring programmes to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of fresh food. We facilitate trade through the provision of export health certification services to the food industry.

In addition, we continually develop our testing capabilities to keep pace with the challenges of, and to maintain vigilance against, newly emerging chemical and microbiological hazards that may be present in food.




Quality assurance

Our laboratory practises a rigorous Quality Assurance programme. Besides use of validated methods and reference materials, we also apply strict Quality Control measures at all stages of testing - from sample management to final reporting and verification of test results. Our laboratory actively participates in Inter-Laboratory Proficiency Testing Schemes. Participation in Inter-Laboratory Proficiency Testing Schemes assesses our laboratory's ability to produce reliable test results and are comparable with those analysed by internationally recognised laboratories.

As an import/export testing and certification laboratory, we actively seek accreditation to international standards to provide assurance to our regulatory counterparts that we are adequately equipped, staffed by competent personnel and have a demonstrated capacity to produce accurate testing results through Good Laboratory Practices and Quality Assurance programmes. The VPHL is accredited by the Singapore Accreditation Council-Singapore Laboratory Accreditation Scheme (SAC-SINGLAS) for compliance under the ISO/IEC Guide 17025 "General Requirements for the Competence of Calibration and Testing Laboratories."

We continue to enhance our capabilities to provide effective services and are dedicated to harnessing the latest technology to achieve the highest standards of expertise, technical standards, efficiency and quality assurance in our services.

 

Testing services

We provide the following testing services::



Tests for chemical contaminants

Our range of capabilities includes tests for:
  • Toxic metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and tin) in seafood and other marine products, offal, processed meat, canned food and water. We employ rapid microwave digestion and acid digestion systems, and analysis using atomic absorption spectrophotometers and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) using gas chromatograph (GC);
  • Chloropropanols like 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol (3-MCPD) and 1,3-dichloropropanol (1,3-DCP) using gas chromatograph / mass spectrometer (GC/MS);
  • Acrylamide using liquid chromatograph / mass spectrometer / mass spectrometer (LC/MS/MS);
We conduct confirmation tests for a range of chemical contaminants and residues using LC/MS/MS and GC/MS.

 

Tests for nutritional components, food additives and preservatives

Our testing services cover food and feed nutritional components, food additives and preservatives as well as freshness indicators. These include:

  • Nutritional Components:
    Fat, protein, sugars, starch, fibre, ash, moisture, gross energy, salt, and total meat content, amino acids, fatty acids including omega-3, cholesterol, vitamins A; B and C, and essential minerals
  • Food additives and preservatives:
    Nitrite and nitrate in processed meat; benzoic, sorbic and boric acids; added colours; Polyphosphates and parabens; sulphur dioxide and formaldehyde
  • Freshness indicators:
    Total volatile nitrogen, trimethylamine and indole, rancidity tests - peroxide value, free fatty acids and thiobarbituric acid



Tests for drug residues

We test for residues of antibiotics, growth promotants and other veterinary drugs in meat, fishery products (cultured), dairy, eggs and animal feed. These include compounds banned from use in livestock production.

The safety limits (maximum residue limits) are based on international standards.

Our range of capabilities covers the following:
  • Microbial inhibition assay for antibiotics
  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for beta-agonists, antibiotics and growth promotants
  • High performance liquid chromatography or LC/MS/MS for nitrofurans, coccidiostats and other antibiotics

Tests for pesticide residues

Our laboratory is designated as the National Reference Centre for pesticide residue testing in food. Since 2004, we have also been recognized as the ASEAN Reference Laboratory for Pesticide Residues Analysis under the EC-ASEAN Economic Cooperation Programme on Standards, Quality and Conformity Assessment.

We provide analytical support to regulatory programmes to ensure that locally produced and imported primary produce is pesticide safe. We also provide pesticide testing services for export health certification and quality control programmes.

Our test capabilities cover a broad range of fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and growth regulators. These include organochlorine and organophosphorous pesticides, pyrethroids, carbamates and chlorophenoxy acetic acids.

We test vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, dairy, grains, water and other processed food products. We use multi-residue screening methods to cover the widest possible range of chemical compounds.


 


Tests for food microbiology

We provide microbiological examination of fresh and processed meat, fish, dairy, other primary produce and water for quality and safety.

We employ rapid methods and automation for detection, identification and enumeration of food-borne pathogens and microbiological hygiene indicators.

We use rapid test kits, selective media, immunoassays and gene technology to detect food-borne pathogens. These cover common and emerging food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrios, Yersinia, Clostridium, Campylobacter, Listeria, Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci.

Our state-of-the-art equipment includes spiral plater and laser colony counter for enumeration of micro-organisms, Bactometer system, VITEK automated microbial identification system, VITEK Immuno-Diagnostic Assay System and molecular biology systems using Polymerase Chain Reaction techniques with Pulse-field Gel Electrophoresis, DNA Sequencer and Riboprinter.

 


Tests for foodborne parasites

We conduct examinations for parasite in seafood, meat, and other primary produce in support of import control and export health certification programmes.

The range of organisms covers protozoan parasites as well as nematodes, cestodes, and trematodes. Major foodborne parasites of concern include:
  • Trichinella spiralis
  • Cysticercus cellulosae and Cysticercus bovis
  • Anisakis
  • Sarcocystis
  • Giardia
  • Cyclospora
 


Tests on food physical quality

We conduct canned food evaluations to determine the integrity of the can seams and identify defective products to complement inspection of locally produced and imported products.

We provide tests on food authenticity to prevent economic fraudulence of consumers. These include:
  • Identification of species of origin of raw meat, processed meat products and fish using isoelectric-focusing electrophoresis and gene PCR analysis methods
  • Differentiation of real and imitation sharkfin using chemical and microscopic methods
  • Differentiation of fresh or chilled meat from thawed frozen meat
We also perform organoleptic evaluation and food physical quality tests such as pH, water activity, colour and extraneous matter and filth.

 


Tests for foodborne toxins

We screen and detect toxins in food and animal feedstuff for import control and export health certification. We use sensitive and rapid methods for the foodborne toxin analysis.

Our range of analytical capabilities covers the following types of toxins:
  • Mycotoxins which include aflatoxins B and G in grains and nuts, aflatoxin M in milk, Patulin in apple juice, and Ochratoxins A.

  • Marine biotoxins produced by toxigenic strains of algae (Red Tide), which can accumulate in fish and shellfish. These toxins include Paralytic Shellfish Poison (saxitoxin), Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison (Okadaic acid), and Amnesic Shellfish Poison (Domoic acid).

  • Bacterial toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus in food.

  • Other natural toxicants or allergens such as histamine in scombroid fish.
 


Testing capability in molecular biology and GMO analyses

We have capability in molecular biology (using PCR) for detection of various foodborne pathogens (Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E and Noroviruses).

PCR capability for the detection and quantification of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are also available. We have the capability to detect the 5 specific types of GMOs: Roundup Ready™ soy, Mazimizer™ Bt-176 corn, Bt-11 corn, YieldGard Mon810 corn and StarLink™ corn, and to quantify the amount of Roundup Ready™ soybean (Monsanto) and Bt-11 corn (Syngenta Seeds) in food products.

The PCR based methodology can also identify species that a food product / specimen is derived from (e.g. Identification of the source of hairs, skin tissue, blood smears, gelatine)

 


Application for laboratory testing services

Requestor shall fill in the relevant information on the VPHL "Request for Testing" Form.

The form must be fully completed and duly signed, with tests requested indicated clearly on the form.

Click here for the full application procedures.

 


Sending in of test samples

Samples for analyses shall be sent to the Veterinary Public Health Laboratory located at the Veterinary Public Health Centre at 10 Perahu Road, Singapore 718837.

The samples should be submitted together with the completed Request Form, to the VPHL Administration Office Counter on the 2nd Floor of the VPHC.

It is important to note that the samples must be handled and transported under the appropriate conditions, as this will affect the results of tests.

 


Turn-around time

The turn-around time for analyses is very much dependent on the test type. As a general guide, our Service Standard is:
  • Analytical results will be released within 10 working days from the date of receipt of sample;
  • Laboratory reports will be issued within 2 workings days from release (completion) of results;
  • Certified True Copies Endorsement on the same day
Fees and charges

Analyses fee varies with the test type. The prevailing GST rate is applicable for all commercial testing. For the prevailing analysis fee rate, please call the VPHC general enquiry lines.

 


If you have further enquiries

Please call VPHC directly via 6795 2822/2829 or the AVA Contact Centre via 6805 2992. You may also wish to email us.

Alternatively, you may visit our Contact Info page.

 
Last updated on 16 December 2014
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