The food safety lab was inaugurated last week (8 August) at INCIENSA, the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Education in Nutrition and Health, a public institution that is attached to the Ministry of Health.
The laboratory will strengthen preventative measures against foodborne illnesses and improve monitoring of outbreaks as well as ensuring compliance with national and international food safety regulations.
“Foodborne illnesses continue to be one of the leading causes of death worldwide, which is why the laboratory we inaugurate today is so important. [It] strengthens the country's capacities to monitor this type of infectious agents, while allowing us to meet international commitments established in different agreements signed by Costa Rica,” said the country’s health minister, Daniel Salas.
Lisset Navas, director of INCIENSA, said the laboratory would help ensure that the food eaten by the Costa Rican population was safe.
The laboratory has a next-generation sequencer that can detect microorganisms responsible for foodborne illnesses with molecular precision. The lab will also be equipped to analyze genetically modified organisms (GMO) and parasites in food.
According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), every year 600 million people in the world, equivalent to one person in 10, get sick from eating contaminated food. Of these, 420,000 including 125,000 children under 5 years, die from the illness.
According to a report by the Ministry of Health, 120 people died in Costa Rica in 2015 due to foodborne illnesses.
Norovirus, Campylobacter, E. coli and non-typhoidal Salmonella are the biggest causes of food-related illness in the Americas, according to the Pan-American World Health Organization (PAHO).