Improved safety standards and greater support for the food industry in Wales are the twin goals of a new research centre opened yesterday at the School of Health Sciences, which is based at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff.
The £5m facility will help local food businesses to introduce and monitor the rigorous food safety processes needed to comply with global food safety standards.
The new centre will also conduct applied research into food industry subjects and supply graduates with the specific skills needed by the food industry.
In addition to academic courses, the facility will also provide practical courses on assessing and managing food safety risks. The target audience for these training courses will people working in the local food industry, representatives from local authority food agencies and food science and environmental health students.
Included in the new centre will be the first sensory suite in Wales where new food products can be taste-tested under controlled conditions.
Another of the food centre’s missions is to promote the understanding of diet and lifestyle on the ageing process and the diseases that are common in Wales. These include: Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and asthma.
Opening the centre yesterday, first minister Rhodri Morgan said: "The tragic and avoidable consequences of the E.coli outbreak and the central findings of the Pennington inquiry show clearly how important developing high standards in food safety management is.
“That is what makes opening this centre such an important event. It will also provide support for the Welsh food industry through its cutting-edge research and technology."
In 2005 the largest ever outbreak of E. coli in Wales, and the second largest in the UK, resulted in one death and more than 150 people falling sick. The outbreak was eventually traced to a manufacturer in Bridgend, South Wales which supplied cooked sliced meats to 44 local schools.
Professor Hugh Pennington who was appointed to Chair the Inquiry, subsequently made specific recommendations covering E. coli research, surveillance, enforcement and the handling of an outbreak.