City lab is now part of international network


An Aberdeen City Council-run laboratory is the only lab of its kind to become part of the international Food Authenticity Network.

The Aberdeen Scientific Services Laboratory (ASSL) is now included in the Network’s list of organisations having a general proficiency in food authenticity testing across a range of scientific techniques and food commodities.

The Aberdeen Scientific Services Laboratory, which is tucked away off Dunbar St in Old Aberdeen, is staffed by a small and dedicated team of scientists who carry out a range of work on behalf of ACC and other councils.

Part of the team’s role is to carry out the chemical analysis and microbiological examination of food, animal feed and drinking water to help environmental health and trading standards officers enforce the raft of legislation which is there to help ensure that what we eat and drink is safe and is what it says it is. Other areas of work include monitoring air quality, pollution from closed landfill sites and legionella in water systems.

Aberdeen City Council operational services convener Councillor John Wheeler said: “It is a fantastic accolade to the work carried out by the team at ASSL that they are now part of the Food Authenticity Network.

“They provide a valuable service to the city and other councils which has been particularly relevant during Covid-19.”

Dr Duncan Campbell, who heads up ASSL, said: “Our lab is probably the smallest in the network of four labs across Scotland but the staff are well qualified with a complementary range of competencies and a wealth of experience.

“During the pandemic, we have offered advice on the effectiveness of different types of hand sanitisers as well as analysing locally produced alcohol-based products to ensure that they meet the required standard.”

The Government set up the Food Authenticity Network in response to a recommendation in the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply which was carried out in the wake of the horsemeat incident of 2013 Recommendation 4 highlighted the need for standardised testing approaches. The aim of FAN is to help bring together the UK’s expertise in a range of food authenticity testing techniques and ensure better collaboration and data sharing between all those with an interest.

Every council in Scotland must appoint a Public Analyst and an Agricultural Analyst and make use of the services of a Food Examiner. Key staff at ASSL have suitable qualifications and experience to discharge these functions and do so on behalf of Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, and Moray Councils as well as being Public Analyst and Agricultural Analyst for the City of York Council. There are three other labs in Scotland with similar functions (Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee).

All work is carried out to a very high standard – ultimately results and opinion may be tested in the criminal courts. In 1994, ASSL was the first Public Analyst Laboratory in Scotland to become accredited for the chemical analysis of food and water and regarded by its public and private sector clients as providing a high-quality value for money service, able to offer expert support and opinion in addition to chemical analysis and microbiological examination.