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Institute of Food Safety, Feed And Environment

The Institute for Food Safety, Feed and the Environment consists of the Food Safety Unit and the Environment, Nutrition, Wellbeing and Animal Hygiene Unit.

Work

The institute carries out pedagogical and research work in the field of food safety, feed, environment and animal welfare and hygiene.

It performs sampling, chemical, microbiological and microscopic analyses of food of animal origin and feed, olfactometric measurements (air analysis) and DDD (disinsection, disinfection, pest control).

Through its work the institute provides technical, professional and scientific support to the Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Food Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection, as well as veterinarians, animal owners, breeders and producers of animal feed and food of animal origin. It provides advice on the appropriate food for cattle, small animals, horses, pigs, poultry and pets such as dogs, cats and exotic animals.

The majority of the institute’s procedures are legally validated and accredited.

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Research

The institute's research work is focused on the issues of food and feed safety and environmental impacts on animal health, welfare and productivity.

The primary objective in ensuring safe food and feed is to reduce the content of pollutants, residues of veterinary medicinal products and microorganisms that may enter food or feed at all stages of production and which may have adverse effects on human and animal health. As part of its work the institute ensures safe food for tomorrow and is involved in research into the isolation and spread of resistant bacteria through foods of animal origin. State-of-the-art molecular methods are used to determine the presence of bacteria and viruses in foods and to analyse their genome.

Research is ongoing into the content of certain elements in bivalve molluscs, the excretion of medicines in cows’ milk, the safety of using raw meat in dog food, new protein sources, and the contamination of feed with ergot alkaloids. The institute investigates the survival of pathogenic bacteria in digestates from biogas apparatus, the biocidal effects of atmospheric cold plasma on the surfaces of foods contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, and tests for titanium submicron coatings and biocidal effects of electro-oxygenated water.

Departments

Food Safety Department

Nutritional value

All pre-packaged foods have been subject to mandatory nutrition labelling for foodstuffs since 13 December 2016, in accordance with Regulation 1169/2011. At a minimum, labels must include the energy value and the average fat content (and of this the amount of saturated fat), carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. These are the average values of the nutrients in grams per 100 grams or 100 millilitres of food. Nutritional value can be determined by analysing food. The Food Safety Unit identifies all the ingredients needed to indicate nutritional values:

  • energy value
  • fats
  • saturated fats
  • proteins
  • water
  • ash
  • carbohydrates
  • sugars
  • salt (sodium content)
Microbiological tests of food

Food safety and hygiene are linked to the microbiological state. Microbes, when present in an increased number (total number of microbes, Escherichia coli (E. coli), enterobacteria and others), indicate poor hygiene of the production process. Some microbes, such as Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter spp., Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), and others, are pathogenic and cause disease when ingested in contaminated foods.

The presence and/or number of many microorganisms is determined in different food groups:

  • Salmonella spp.
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Campylobacter spp.
  • E. coli
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • enterobacteria
  • STEC/VTEC
  • aerobic mesophilic bacteria
  • lactic acid bacteria
  • anaerobic bacteria
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Bacillus cereus
  • viruses
  • others

The institute provides professional assistance (sampling, problem solving in production).

We have also developed Guidelines for the Microbiological Safety of Foods for the Final Consumer.

Shelf life

Implementation of the parameters necessary to determine the shelf life of food:

  • microbiological testing
  • sensory evaluation
Determining types of meat

To ensure safe food, the institute enables the identification of individual types of meat in different meat products. Determining the content of different types of meat in meat products is important for legal, economic and religious reasons. Products include horse, beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Species of fish can also be identified. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method is used for analysis.

Assessment of conformity of the declaration

Legislation in the area of food labelling is very extensive and changing rapidly, therefore the institute can assist in labelling foods and can also check if labelling complies with the legislation. The nutrient content of foods should not deviate significantly from the values indicated on the label, since such deviations could lead to misleading consumers. The analysis determines the nutrient content of the food and checks that the difference between the measured values and the indicated values is within the limits permitted.

Production environment

The quality and hygiene of the production environment has a significant impact on product characteristics. Food business operators are responsible for maintaining the hygiene of surfaces and equipment through regular cleaning. Critical points in terms of microbial contamination are sites that are difficult to reach and damaged or uneven surfaces.

The presence of different microorganisms is detected in surface swab samples: total number of microbes, enterobacteria, E. coli, L. monocytogenes, Salmonella spp. and others.

For the purpose of monitoring slaughter hygiene, microbiological contamination (carcass swabs) and central nervous system tissue (swabs of chewing muscles of ruminants) are determined.

The institute provides professional assistance (sampling, problem solving in production).
 

Sensory assessment

Sensory properties of foods include those that can be perceived by one's basic senses - sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing.

In the food industry, sensory analysis is most commonly used:

  • when developing new products
  • to control the quality of raw materials and finished products
  • to monitor the quality of products during storage

The results of sensory evaluation play an important role in determining the shelf life (use by date) of products.

Assessment results can be reported using a points scale and/or descriptively.

Foods that have been sensorily-modified are unfit for human consumption (regardless of their microbiological or physico-chemical properties) because they do not meet the food safety requirements (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002).

Residues of medicines and pollutants

Modern food production also includes the treatment of animals. Authorised medicinal products may be used for this purpose. The use of hormones and beta-agonists is banned in Europe. The control is focused both on the presence of a prohibited substance (stilbene, steroid hormones, zeranols, chloramphenicol, nitrofuran metabolites, nitroimidazoles, dapsones, chlorpromazine, beta-agonists) and on the concentration of any residues of different groups of antimicrobial substances (penicillins, cephalosporins, tetraminolinetics, aminoglycerides, aminoglycols , macrolides, sulfonamides), avermectins, coccidiostats, sedatives, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Among the pollutants the institute focuses on lead, cadmium, mycotoxins and colourants and carries out tests on meat, milk, eggs, liver, kidneys, honey, urine, and blood plasma.

Marine biotoxins

Marine biotoxins are naturally occurring substances that are occasionally synthesised by certain types of algae. When marine biotoxins appear, they are found in marine organisms. The thermal treatment of seafood has no effect on reducing their concentration. Therefore, the institute monitors the presence of those groups of marine toxins that cause mental and neurological or gastrointestinal disorders. The first group includes domoic acid and its analogues (amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP)) and even more dangerous saxitoxins (paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)). The second group contains okadaic acid and its analogues. Shellfish are most susceptible to the accumulation of toxins.

Sampling

Sampling includes the taking of food samples in accordance with the programme provided by the contracting entity. The process follows international recommendations (ISO), taking into account the specific requirements and instructions of the contracting authority. Sampling involves the taking and transportation of samples from the sampling point to the laboratory and the preparation of documentation.

Department of Environment, Animal Nutrition, Welfare and Hygiene

Feed quality

Determination of basic feed quality parameters:

  • dry matter
  • proteins
  • fat
  • fibre
  • ash
  • starch
Feed deterioration parameters

Microbiological and mycological examinations can determine the degree of deterioration of feed. In feed, the following is determined:

  • total number of saprophytic bacteria
  • total number of moulds and yeasts
  • pathogenic microorganisms (salmonella, enterobacteria ...)
Mycotoxins, harmful substances and feed additives

In feed, the following is determined:

  • mycotoxins
  • coccidiostats
  • vitamins
  • macro elements
  • trace elements
  • heavy metals
  • antibiotics
Microscopic analysis of feed

Feed ingredients and various undesirable substances can be identified in feed:

  • harmful plants
  • pests
  • poisonous plant seeds

The institute is the only laboratory in Slovenia that performs analyses on the possible content of tissues of animal origin in feed.

Environment and animal welfare
  • olfactometric measurements (air analysis)
  • help with inadequate milk quality
  • DDD activities (disinsection, disinfection, pest control)
Consulting

The institute provides advice on the nutrition of cattle, small animals, horses, pigs, poultry and pets.

Contacts

Management

Head

znan. sod. dr. Gabrijela Tavčar Kalcher

tel. 01 4779 237
e-mail: gabrijela.tavcar-kalcher@vf.uni-lj.si

Food Safety Department

Gerbičeva 60,
1000 Ljubljana

Tel.: 014779 192
Fax: 01 4779 174

Department Head

doc. dr.  Stanka Vadnjal

Email: stanka.vadnjal@vf.uni-lj.si

Department of Environment, Animal Nutrition, Welfare and Hygiene

Cesta v Mestni log 47,
1000 Ljubljana

Tel.: 014779 237
Fax: 01 4779 338

Department Head

izr. prof. dr. Breda Jakovac Strajn

Email: breda.jakovacstrajn@vf.uni-lj.si