The State General Laboratory (SGL) is a department of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and is the Official Government Laboratory responsible for the surveillance and monitoring of foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other consumer products and for the examination of illegal drugs and other police exhibits from cases brought to court for justice employing 176 people including 136 scientists.
It comprises 21 specialised laboratories in the above fields of its remit. In cooperation with the competent authorities it is also the main centre for environmental monitoring and pollution control and narcotics, microbiological and chemical control of foodstuffs (contaminants, additives, nutritional value, allergens). The SGL’s contribution focuses also on the interface between Public Health and the Environment.
The spectrum of SGL/s responsibilities includes:
- Microbiological, chemical and radiological control of foodstuffs (contaminants, additives, nutritional value, allergens),
- Food contact materials,
- Environmental pollution (including radioactivity and ecotoxicology),
- Environment and health,
- Quality and safety of water (microbiological and chemical control),
- Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics
- Food Supplements
- Forensic chemistry and Forensic Toxicology (narcotics, arson, explosives),
- Industrial products and customs samples,
- Children’s toys,
- Authenticity of foods (wines, fruit juices, honey etc.).
In the framework of its responsibilities the SGL cooperates with almost all Ministries, Municipalities, and Organizations and provides – to a limited extent – paid services to the private sector. It also participates in various relevant to its responsibilities Councils and Committees (National and EU). Furthermore the Director of SGL is a member of the EFSA Advisory Forum and its Chief Chemist is the EFSA focal point. The head of its IT Section is a member of EFSA/s Networking group on Pesticides Monitoring.
For the fulfillment of its mission SGL:
- Develops and implements a holistic and interdisciplinary approach which reflects the planning of monitoring and control programs with added value and synergistic effectiveness e.g. in 2010, 43 monitoring/surveillance programmes were implemented on food safety, pharmaceutical control and other consumer products and 15 monitoring programmes on environmental protection and water safety. These can be found at the web page of SGL http://www.moh.gov.cy/sgl. In total in 2010, 30,074 samples were analysed covering 260,125 parameters.
- Promotes the increase of productivity of the laboratories through the introduction of automation, simplification of methodologies/ procedures and the increase in the representativeness and effectiveness of the control for better preventive measures.
- Continuously extends the accreditation of its laboratories based on the international standard ΕN ISO/IEC 17025:2005, and
- Propagates its experience and knowledge towards other government and private bodies on Quality Assurance aspects and Metrology in Chemistry.
Under the umbrella of SGL 6 National Reference Laboratories are designated in the following areas:
Veterinary Drug Residues
Pesticides Residues, PCB/s and Dioxins
Environmental Contaminants and Natural Toxins
Genetically Modified Organisms
Food Contact Materials.
These Laboratories as well as all other official food laboratories under SGL collect all results from multiannual programmes on food safety and disseminate them to DG SANCO/EFSA. The SGL goes one step beyond the analysis evaluating the results and carrying out the necessary risk assessment, so as to confirm the degree of exposure of the general population & children and the related risks thereby providing scientifically based advice to competent authorities to enable risk management and effective measures to be taken by the competent Authority.
The SGL’s Strategic Aims
- To improve its role at a national, regional and European level, as a centre for the dissemination of scientific knowledge.
- To be developed as a Centre of Excellence in the fields of Food Safety, Environment and Health, pharmaceuticals and narcotics as well as a Centre for the transfer of scientific know- how at National, Regional and European level.
- To maximize its socio-economic contribution in the areas of Public Health and the Environment, Justice and Consumer Protection through its substantial contribution towards prevention and proactive management of problems.
The SGL has an international network of colleagues/co-workers and has signed protocols of cooperation with Institutes, Universities and Organizations such as the Joint Research Center (JRC), the University of Strathclyde, the University of Surrey, the Technological University of Cyprus, the University of Cyprus, the University of Athens etc. Also, members of staff participate in a wide range of expert committees and panels of the EU, the UN Environmental Protection Program, the World Health Organization, the International Forum for Chemical Safety and the European Food Safety Authority. It has also signed a protocol of co-operation with The German Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and The Cyprus Organization for the Promotion of Quality.
The SGL is dedicated to the protection of public health targeting at prevention thus, research forms one of the fundamentals for its continuous scientific and technological development. The Research by SGL supplements and extends scientific foundations by means of the targeted, purpose driven elaboration and development of new findings, data and methods and problem solving. Such research activities give to SGL and its staff the necessary expertise in order to be able to participate in a highly competent and practice-oriented manner in national and international scientific activities. The SGL/s overaching research goals are:
- to offer competent advice and support to political decision makers of a high scientific standard based on internationally recognised expertise especially in the areas of food safety, environment and health, food authenticity and narcotics and safety of consumer products,
- to strengthen competence within the network of European scientific authorities in the field of consumer health protection,
- within its activities as a national reference laboratory to develop new methods of analysis,
- to safeguard and sustain high quality scientific expertise.
Research is carried out primarily with EU funds but also with national funds from the Research Promotion Foundation and the Ministry of Health. SGL has managed to get EU funding of the order of €500,000 for applied/targeted research projects in the last 3 years (2008-2010) and also some €350,000 from National funding. The results of these research activities have been published (total of 50) in international well established scientific journals.
Dr. Popi Kanari
State General Laboratory