Tag Archives: HM Government


News story: GC team verifies sampling procedure to detect carcinogenic toxins

Why aflatoxins are dangerous and challenges in detection

The Government Chemist is required to act as the national focus of technical appeal in specified areas where there is an actual or potential dispute between food businesses and regulators on the results of chemical analysis or their interpretation.

Many such disputes have involved aflatoxins, which are toxins generated by moulds that can cause cancer. Port Health Authorities safeguard the food supply coming into the UK by sampling large consignments of food for aflatoxin testing by Public Analysts. However, mould growth is notoriously patchy – so how good is the sampling and does it really protect us from these toxins?

What we have done to help

The Government Chemist team investigated the effectiveness of the current sampling protocol, which sees multiple increments taken and aggregated to form a sample up to 30 kg in size. The sample is then reduced to manageable proportions for testing by statistically controlled sub-sampling and high speed mixing with water.

In this study, six replicate sampling exercises were carried out on a 1.5 tonne cargo of groundnuts (peanuts) known to be contaminated by the toxin-producing mould. The results confirmed that when carried out properly, the elaborate sampling was able to spot the contamination each time.

The full report is available in an open access scientific paper.

The lead author of the paper, Dr Michael Walker, said:

Importers and Port Health officials work hard together to ensure food brought into the UK is safe to eat by lengthy and painstaking sampling. It is important to be sure this costly work is effective and I am pleased our findings bore this out.

The Government Chemist team would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of Prof Duncan Thorburn Burns, Institute of Global Food Security, Queen’s University, Belfast, in the publication of this work.


Michael Walker, Peter Colwell, Simon Cowen, Stephen LR Ellison, Kirstin Gray, Selvarani Elahi, Peter Farnell, Phillip Slack and D Thorburn Burns, 2017, Aflatoxins in Groundnuts – Assessment of the Effectiveness of EU Sampling and UK Enforcement Sample Preparation Procedures, J Assoc Public Analysts, 45, 1 – 21

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News story: CV21 report published

MAIB’s report on the investigations of two fatal accidents on board the UK registered yacht CV21 on 4 September 2015 and 1 April 2016 is now published.

The report contains details of what happened, subsequent actions taken, and recommendations made. Read more.

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Speech: “This sickening use of chemical weapons – weapons that Asad agreed in 2013 to destroy – is just the latest in a long list of abhorrent acts.”

Thank you Madam President. And I would also like to thank you Staffan for your briefing, and for your unrelenting efforts to secure a political solution to the conflict in Syria. You have our continued full support.

Despite your efforts and those of this Council, and the international community, the people of Syria have been denied a political solution for more than six years. They have suffered over six years of ever increasing, ever escalating barbarity; over six years of failed ceasefires and false dawns. For over six years, this Council has been held to ransom by Russia’s shameless support for the Asad regime; support which the regime is flaunting. Throughout that time, we have met in this Chamber to discuss atrocity after atrocity. Hoping that Asad had finally reached the depth of his cruelty and would finally see the need for dialogue. And yet every time, without fail, he has plunged to new lows.

Chemical weapons scientists at Porton Down, in the United Kingdom, have analysed samples obtained from Khan Shaykun, and these have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance. The United Kingdom therefore shares the US assessment that it is highly likely that the regime was responsible for a sarin attack on Khan Shaykun on the 4th of April.

This sickening use of chemical weapons – weapons that Asad agreed in 2013 to destroy – is just the latest in a long list of abhorrent acts. With that attack, he has made clear that he is not committed to a ceasefire, or to the Astana process, ruining Russia’s credibility.

And as we mourn the victims of the chemical attack on Khan Shaykun, we must not forget the 13.5 million people who, thanks to Asad, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, who are in urgent need of a long overdue peace.

It is clear today, as it has been for some time, that there can be no place for Asad in Syria’s future.

But, Madam President, there is a way to end this nightmare that the Syrian people continue to suffer. The Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and our unanimous resolution 2254 charts the way to peace in Syria. We have a Special Representative in you, Staffan, who is rightly determined to keep the political process alive and pursue a renewed UN facilitated effort. We have an opposition prepared to take a pragmatic approach to discussions. And we have millions upon millions of Syrians, inside and outside the country crying out for long overdue peace.

And yet we are still here in this chamber, with the regime showing no interest in peace, encouraged by Russia’s support in this Council to keep dropping bombs, to keep using chemical weapons.

Time and time again Russia has abused its veto to protect the regime and to defend its use of chemical weapons. And what has Russia got in return for its seven vetoes in six years? Let me tell you.

Russia’s initiative in 2013 to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons has been exposed as a shambles. Russian pride in the Astana process has been turned to humiliation. And Russia’s credibility and reputation across the world have been poisoned by its toxic association with Asad. They have chosen to side with a murderous, barbaric criminal, rather than with their international peers.

They have chosen the wrong side of history.

However, it is not too late for Russia to change course. It is not too late for Russia to fulfil its responsibilities as a permanent member of this Security Council. It is not too late for Russia to use, finally, its influence over the regime to bring this conflict to an end. Those efforts must begin meaningfully with attempts to end the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs, real efforts to bring about a ceasefire and real efforts to ensure proper humanitarian access.

In doing so, Russia can create the space needed for a renewed push on the political process; one that leads to that political transition to a government that represents all Syrians.

Should they do so, should they choose that path, we stand ready to work with Russia to preserve Syrian institutions through the political transition. We stand ready to find ways of cooperating with Russia to counter Da’esh and other international terrorist threats. We stand ready to engage with Russia as a constructive partner on this Council. While Asad offers Russia only shame and humiliation; we offer Russia something else; the chance, once again, to work with the international community as a credible member.

Finally, Madam President, the Syrian people have waited for over six years. Hundreds of thousands have died. Countless hospitals, schools and homes have been destroyed. Now, more than ever, the international community must come together to end this senseless conflict.

And that’s why we stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States and their decision to take military action against the Shayrat airfield, from where last week’s attacks were launched. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our G7 allies and all those who are committed to deter the future use of chemical weapons and, finally, to bring peace to Syria.

Thank you.

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Speech: “Haiti in 2017 is a different country to that of 2004, the year that MINUSTAH’s mandate began.”

Thank you Madam President, and thank you to Special Representative Honoré for your briefing just now.

I do want to join others in offering my condolences to Egypt for the terrible terrorist attacks that took place over the weekend on Sunday. Our thoughts and our prayers are with you.

At the outset, I think it’s important to set out the progress that Haiti has made over the last thirteen years. In these sessions we often discuss the most pressing, most recent developments, and that can occasionally mean that we lose sight of the overall trajectory of countries that are on our agenda.

For Haiti, that trajectory is upwards.

We’ve seen the professionalization and reform of the Haiti National Police and we’ve seen the security situation improve. We’ve witnessed credible and fair elections, as you’ve just outlined SRSG, leading to the peaceful transfer of power and a return to constitutional order. We’ve all been shocked as Haiti was struck by natural disasters, but we also saw the resilience of the Haitian people and the process of rebuilding.

Now, clearly this is not a story of uninterrupted progress. There is much more to be done, especially on protecting human rights, empowering women, widening access to justice and, of course, on long-term development.

Alongside many others in this Chamber today, the United Kingdom is gravely concerned about the continued presence of cholera in the country. We have contributed over 600,000 dollars to the UN Haiti Cholera Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund. I urge others to step up and make what contributions they can, so that together we can rid Haiti of this horrific disease once and for all.

But despite these challenges, Haiti in 2017 is a different country to that of 2004, the year that MINUSTAH’s mandate began. As President Moïse said in his inauguration speech in February, it is time for MINUSTAH to go.

A great deal has been achieved by the mission in those 13 years and on behalf of the United Kingdom I want to offer our thanks to everyone involved in MINUSTAH and in the UN Country Team for their hard work in securing this outcome. I want to particularly express my thanks to you Sandra, for your service as Special Representative for almost four years.

We want to see a phased withdrawal over the next six months – and a successor mission to continue some of MINUSTAH’s work.

To be effective, that mission must have access to the most appropriate personnel and equipment. It should be underpinned by high quality training and skilled leadership, alongside clear accountability for underperformance and misconduct.

The successor to MINUSTAH, like all peace operations mandated by this Council, must have a clear exit strategy. This exit strategy should be established at the start of the mission – not at its end – and include clear benchmarks over a two year period. Joint analysis and planning with the UN country team is critical, as is the gradual but steady handover of responsibilities to Haiti’s government and national institutions.

A two-year exit strategy should safeguard Haiti from the risk of a sudden and hastily planned withdraw or, quite differently, the quagmire of a mission that never ends.

This does not signify the end to the UN’s commitment to Haiti. And it is not an end of the United Kingdom’s commitment either.

Even with the leadership and resilience of its people, Haiti will still require development support from the international community for peace to be sustained.

The decisions we make in this Council are critical to this goal. We need to select the right UN tools to provide the right support – and we need to show the courage and discipline to let Haiti stand on her own two feet.

Thank you.

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Press release: Foreign Secretary statement on the UNSC vote on Syria

Last week in Syria, a barbaric attack was committed.

Today, British scientists have completed an analysis of samples obtained from the site of the attack and concluded that sarin, or a sarin-like substance, was used. Our assessment, like that of the US, is that it is highly likely the Asad regime was responsible.

This afternoon in New York, the international community sought to make clear that any use of chemical weapons by anyone anywhere is unacceptable and that those responsible will face consequences.

So I am dismayed that Russia has once again blocked the UN Security Council and in so doing refused to condemn the use of chemical weapons or support a full UN investigation into the attack.

This puts Russia on the wrong side of the argument. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Today, Rex Tillerson has been in Moscow with a clear and unanimous message from the G7 that we stand ready to work with Russia to bring an end to violence and to find a political solution. As part of this political solution, the G7 is unanimous that Asad has no long term future in Syria. I agree with Rex Tillerson when he says that the Asad family’s reign in Syria is coming to an end.

So Russia faces a choice: it can continue acting as a lifeline for Asad’s murderous regime, or it could live up to its responsibilities as a global power, and use its influence over the regime to bring six long years of failed ceasefires and false dawns to an end.

We stand ready to work together and I will be talking to my G7 partners in the coming days about how we can continue to strive for a political solution that brings an end to the suffering of the Syrian people.

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