APA News

  • West Yorkshire Loses its Public Analyst Laboratory

    © Colin Wheeler 2012

    Suzi Leather MBE with Dr Duncan Campbell at the official opening of the new West Yorkshire laboratory in 2001

    Only three months after the closure of Staffordshire Scientific Services   the Public Analyst function at West Yorkshire Joint Services ceased at Easter. The laboratory will continue to operate but the two Public Analyst posts, together with four others, were made redundant. In an article in Food Navigator  the lead Public Analyst Dr Duncan Campbell is quoted as saying that “Laboratories close but there isn’t a plan”.  Staff at the lab acted as Public Analysts for local authorities with a combined population of six and three quarter million. However, despite a large increase in commercial work, the continual decline in spending on analysis by local authorities and the end of the Food Standards Agency’s nationally coordinated sampling programme in March 2017 led to significant losses being predicted.  Elected Members in West Yorkshire were not prepared to subsidise the operation.

    Leeds City Council opened the first local authority Public Analyst laboratory in West Yorkshire in 1928 and the lab’s remit widened when the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council was created in 1974. New laboratories, completed in 2000, were officially opened by Suzi Leather MBE the first Deputy Chair of the Food Standards Agency in May 2001. It was here that a method was developed for Sudan I in spices in 2003 and subsequently one for Chrysoidine G in star anise and cinnamon. Another illegal dye that featured was Rhodamine B, which can be found in Asian confectionary .  The lab also pioneered the use of Solid Phase Micro Extraction (SPME) for the rapid detection of high levels of methanol and traces of solvents such as chloroform and xylene in fake and counterfeit vodka  and it was the first in to gain UKAS accreditation for the quantification of nicotine in e-liquids. More unusual work included analysis of cyanide in fish that had died following illegal discharges into rivers and the confirmation of the presence of milk proteins in the interior of a getaway car from a murder scene.  Routine food enforcement work was broad in scope and a feature in the Guardian  in 2014 on work carried out in West Yorkshire attracted international interest. 

    Public Analysts from the laboratory were active in the APA: Richard Dalley was President from 1981 to 83 and Duncan Campbell 2009-12. Duncan is currently the Honorary Secretary.  Marian Thomas was editor of the APA Bulletin for several years and Chris Hunt is a trustee in the APA Educational Trust and served as a member of the Association’s Training Committee.