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SENEGAL :A technician analyzing toxic constituents in feeds ©FAO/Olivier Asselin


FAO-TAMU E-learning course strengthens laboratory quality control systems in developing countries

A joint FAO and TAMU E-learning course for Feed Analysts

Analytical results impact every aspect of our daily life.  Laboratories test the food and water we consume, the drugs we are prescribed, the air we breathe, and the products we buy.  Laboratory quality assurance and quality improvement programmes play a vital role in producing sound and defensible analytical results.  The implementation of a laboratory quality system is the key to ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, gaining consumer confidence and maintaining competitiveness in both domestic and global markets. According to Harinder Makkar, coordinator of the course at FAO, “generation of reliable data on nutritional value of feed ingredients and feeds is fundamental to sustainable livestock production”. Furthermore, according to him, “it plays an important role in strengthening feed-food safety nexus”.


To strengthen quality laboratory systems in developing countries, the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), Texas A&M University, and the Office of the Texas State Chemist developed “Laboratory Quality Systems,” an online training course offered for both professional and graduate credit.  The course focuses on developing and implementing laboratory quality systems and covers a wide range of topics including method development, laboratory accreditation, chain of custody and international laboratory standards.  The main focus of the course is to provide laboratory professionals with the necessary tools to produce and analyze data, document traceability, and calculate the uncertainty in reported data.  The end result is to assist these laboratories in producing quality results that can be used to guarantee quality and ensure compliance.  In addition, the course participants are provided hands-on experience in developing standard operational protocols, validating methods, implementing corrective actions and incorporating capital budgeting techniques.  The participants benefit from the course by learning how to implement quality systems in a laboratory to access regulated products. As an outcome of this E-course, the participants will be better equipped to manage a laboratory and evaluate the quality and reliability of laboratory data under industrial and regulatory settings in the global market.


Since 2013 this course has been organized from June to August. Over 90% of the total participating candidates completed this course. Their feedback has been highly encouraging and they found the course very useful. An FAO participant in the recently completed course commented that the course has provided her with “new knowledge and a better understanding of lab quality assurance,” which has improved the functioning of her lab.  She continued, “Now I better understand how important it is to implement and live Quality Assurance in the lab!”  Since its inception, the course has served 55 laboratory professionals from 35 countries by allowing them access to the latest knowledge needed to implement a Laboratory Quality System without leaving their laboratory bench. Prof. Tim Herrmann, Director of the course said, “through this course my team members could response to diverse challenges the laboratory staff in developing countries face and I am pleased that we could contribute to strengthening quality control systems in many developing country laboratories. The experiences of my team have been highly rewarding.” 


FAO regional offices have actively participated in identifying candidates for the course. The FAO Regional Office in Africa (Ghana) has been active in sponsoring candidates for this course, acknowledging that the region requires capacity building in generation of quality data on chemical constituents and nutritional value of feeds  and feed ingredients and capacity building through this mechanism is low-cost, efficient and prudent.