The PERIMILK project in its first year signed an MoU with the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU) School to carry out residue analysis, zoonoses, food safety, and brucellosis diagnostics. GADVASU’s state-of-the-art laboratories and testing equipment combined with trained lab staff was well placed to provide appropriate lab support to the project. Further, GADVASU was one of five site partners and a key member of the Research Group that was formed comprising of members of the Core Group, and researchers.
GADVASU was established by the Punjab Government in 2006 with a view to promote livestock production, health and prevention of the disease(s) through integrated teaching, research and extension programmes. The University established the School of Public Health and Zoonoses with the mandate for teaching and conducting research on diagnostic and prevention of zoonotic diseases; food safety and quality control; environmental hygiene and pollutants; and food borne pathogens and their toxins.
Testing samples to study patterns and generate evidence
According to the research group, pathogens/conditions such as Brucella spp and aflatoxins in milk are common risks in small holder dairy farms, though underreported or not reported at all. In addition, quality of milk and general hygiene are critical components. Testing of these milk samples for the presence of E. coli would help in establishing better understanding around disease incidence in cattle and thereafter planning remedial steps for addressing the problem. In the presence of poor hygiene combined with lack of awareness, there is increased risk of using antimicrobials in a non-therapeutic setting. Therefore, estimating the quality of milk being produced and sold directly or through a middleman or cooperative will be important from the point of view of ensuring food safety standards.
Additional testing of parameters by GADVASU helped expand the study’s scope of enquiry. It helped by testing for more agents/conditions in the same milk samples as well as widening the geographical scope to get a nationally representative picture, given that samples from all project sites were brought to GADVASU for testing and record keeping.
Setting protocols and SoPs for accuracy and adherence to ethical norms
The protocol for laboratory testing was finalised for the agents identified in the first year. In case of the agents identified in the following year, the laboratory protocols were determined in consultation with expert members of the research group. For the additional agents, the following tests were to be employed: ELISA and PCR for Brucella, Aflasensor test to screen for aflatoxins, culture for E. coli, and HPLC for antibiotics and pesticide residues.
The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that includes Gas Chromatography (GC), GC-Mass spectrometry, High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and Atomic absorption spectrometer. Its mandate is to conduct a quantitative estimation and confirmation of pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, antibiotics residues, heavy and toxic metals, endocrine disrupting chemical residues in food of animal origin, feed and fodder in Punjab. Facilities for the testing of water samples for pesticides, antibiotic residue and microrganisms detection provided for the production of quality and safe food.
The well-functioning zoonotic disease laboratory that has the latest equipment and Veterinary officers, Para-veterinary staff and other associated with animal husbandry practices provided help with technology to test them for zoonotic disease. Bacteriological, virological, parasitological examination of food samples of animal origin. Rapid diagnostic method for detection of food borne pathogen optimised. Antimicrobial resistance testing for common food borne pathogens.
GADVASU’s well equipped pesticide and antibiotic residues testing laboratory has provided able support to the project team. Regular visits by experts helped further refine the testing and record keeping process. The lab results will be shared with stakeholders and donors in the coming months. These will also feed into the development of policy and advocacy related recommendations that will be presented to the government.