Food safety and quality control

Controlling the safety of the raw materials on which human food and animal feed are based relies on the principle of prevention and strategies for monitoring and controlling food quality that are science-based and implemented from the field to the plate. These strategies are based on analysis and effective risk management targeting as a priority those risks that have the greatest impact on economic prosperity (FAO, 2009).



Health quality: a major asset for competitiveness in domestic and international markets

Today, compliance with regulatory limits (mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticide residues) is a condition for market access (conformity of production) and the constant evolution of increasingly demanding regulations (cadmium, toxins T-2/HT-2) requires those working in the industry to implement practices to minimise contamination.

“Minimising contamination to gain market access”

Furthermore, facing a diversification in soil and crop contamination issues, it is absolutely necessary to anticipate the demands:

  • Recent problems, such as the Fukushima accident, have given rise to questions about the levels of frequent contamination of soils and arable crops with caesium and uranium.
  • Demands at the trace element scale, such as selenium, are being expressed as part of the general theme of nutrition and health.
  • The collection and synthesis of available data on the presence of micro-pollutants relating to human activity and vehicles and conveyed through feed to animal products is a field of investigation to be explored in the future.  
  • The effects of climate change on the development of pathogens and toxinogenesis mechanisms are a longer term issue which cannot be avoided.

Given the increasing popularity of organic farming, the expansion of these health quality issues to organic production will be necessary in the coming years.




Coordination for an integrated approach to health quality: RMT Quasaprove

Since 2009, ACTA has led the mixed technology network Quasaprove, which is concerned with the health quality of field crops. Its aim is to develop, in a global and harmonised manner, the control of risks posed by unwanted organisms (pests) or contaminants (mycotoxins, trace elements, pesticide residues, and organic and inorganic contaminants) on the health quality of field crops, at all stages of the agricultural production chain through to food processing, including animal transfer.

Beyond the simple juxtaposition of partners and the treatment of their specific problems, the network allows research and development efforts to be pooled for acquiring new knowledge and the transfer of the results to various target groups (farmers, breeders, storage, processors, consultants, buyers, teachers and trainers).



“Managing the health quality of field crops”

Some achievements of RMT Quasaprove for 2009-2013


  • 26 partners including 9 ATIs and 5 ATIIs
  • 4 ‘applied research, training, transfer’ meetings, each attracting 80 to 120 participants
  • 10 projects selected, including 5 CASDAR projects  
  • Work on the multi-contamination of field crops, the sustainable protection of cereals and oilseed crops against insects while in storage and mycotoxin risk characterisation in poultry production
  • A multi-site and multi-contaminant experimental network across the country, comprising of 29 plots including four organically farmed, for full-scale testing of hypotheses and models 
  • A database on the levels of contamination in crops, fed by quantitative and qualitative data collected over the seasons

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Towards a stronger upstream-downstream dynamic

For the period 2014-2020, RMT Quasaprove is the only mixed technology network to benefit from recognition in both the agricultural sector (ACTA network) and the agri-business sector (ACTIA).

As such, it provides new perspectives:

  • Broadening the spectrum of contaminants to PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), organochlorine pesticides, growth regulators, aluminium, caesium, uranium and selenium, in addition to cadmium, arsenic, copper, zinc and lead, and to agro-pedoclimatic conditions
  • Risks associated with mycotoxin contamination (role of crop residues, ‘emerging’ molecules)
  • Contaminants in the post-harvest food chain (residues, mycotoxins, micro-pollutants).

This new programme, organised around three upstream-downstream axes and three transversal or cross-cutting topics (see diagram), relies on the network of plots, an original and unique tool in France, for studying the health quality of crops at harvest linked to climatic, soil, geochemical, biological and agronomic factors.

“Relying on industrial pilots to validate scenarios”

With the integration in the new programme of links between upstream and downstream actors in the production chain, field crop production can build on the availability of pilot industrial partners:

  •  The ARVALIS-Institut du vegetal Métiers du Grain platform in Boigneville for storage
  • The ENSMIC pilot mill in Surgères for milling
  • The UMR IATE ‘semoulerie’ and pilot fractionation platform for durum wheat and maize in Montpellier
  • The CETIOM/ITERG pilot oil milling plant in Pessac
  • The IFBM malt house and brewery platform in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy
  • The IFPC fermentation pilot in Rheu
  • The ARVALIS-Institut du vegetal pilot for the production of farm foods


What undesirable substances are carried by raw materials, introduced into animal feed and can potentially be transferred to animal products?

To answer this question, an RMT Quasaprove working group made up of ITAVI, IFIP - Institut du porc, Institut de l’Élevage, ANSES and INRA launched in 2014 a study that aims to collect and synthesise the available data on the presence of micro-pollutants relating to human activity (dioxins, pesticide residues) and which are conveyed through feed to animal products (meat, milk, eggs). A ranking/prioritisation of micro-pollutants of interest will be made for each animal sector.

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