Interview with Pablo Castillo, manager of Reactiva Laboratorio (Groupe Carso)
Carso is the leader in analysis and associated agribusiness services and large-medium distribution with over 200 million Euros in sales, 3,000 employees and a reinvestment rate of over 8% of its invoicing. What new developments will be presented in Madrid?
New analysis services in plant pathogens, both mono-specific and multi-specific, using RT-PCR. The multi-specific allows the detection and semi-quantification of up to 24 plant pathogens in a single analysis. We are very excited by our clients’ response to it.
We have suffered from a listeriosis outbreak in meat products and, before this, the E.coli crisis. Are the current protocols sufficient? Is it possible to reach zero risk?
The current protocols are very complete, but their application must be strict, and all the agents must maintain a high level of control. The recent listeria crisis puts the focus on the importance of microbiological controls: these are not just a bureaucratic procedure. Health scares cause great damage and it is our obligation to do things correctly and pass this on to consumers. At Reactiva, we believe in the need to improve the level of the microbiological controls, also for fresh produce, and we have incorporated pathogen analysis in real time, with results in 24-48 hours.
Supermarkets are becoming increasingly demanding, asking for LMRs below those marked out by the Law. Is this really justified? Aren’t EU fruit and vegetables safe enough by now?
They are trying to respond to consumer demands. The ‘cocktail effect’ (mix of pesticides) on human health is an open scientific debate and agriculture has been working to reduce active substances for some time now. The results of our analyses shown a drop in substances detected per sample with levels that are substantially lower than the established MRLs. Fresh fruit and vegetables produced in Europe are safe and they meet strict regulations. Spain is very well placed, but the reason why consumers do not accept this message is obvious, and we must seriously consider this point.
What are the challenges faced by agrifood from the analytical point of view? How do food trends such as raw foodism influence food safety?
Food fraud detection is an exciting challenge for laboratories. The industry demands answers to the problems generated by the increase in sales of raw and partially processed raw materials. Regarding the new food trends, in some cases, they can result in the appearance of risks that the legislation and controls have managed to reduce or eliminate. It is important for the legislation to adapt.
What does the growth of bio crops mean for your company? Are these products safe?
We are in Níjar, surrounded by the pioneer companies in the sector. Our company was born and we are evolving responding to them (detection of traces, analysis of inputs…). In 2018, they represented 35% of the sales total for our 10 main clients by turnover. Ecological, zero residue or conventional processes must all live together. The debate regarding whether eco is safer than other methods or not is irrelevant and confuses consumers. Conventional production that meets the regulations is completely safe, the unauthorised active substances and LMR are established in accordance with the current level of scientific knowledge and are continually being reviewed by the EFSA.