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Secondment at EURL-FV

By Maria Antonietta Carrera

Almeria, Spain, November 2022
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Figure 1: Cathedral of Almeria

The first year of my PhD project in the FoodTraNet framework is already over and it is time for a new experience. I have just moved to Almeria to start my six-months secondment at the European Union Reference Laboratory for pesticides residues in Fruits and Vegetables (EURL-FV).

Almeria is one of the main cities of Andalucia, the southern region of Spain. It is located right by the Mediterranean Sea, with beautiful, wild beaches very close to the city, and a fascinating historic center full of monuments, like the Cathedral and the ancient Arabic fortress - the Alcazaba - that are proof of its multicultural past.

In the relatively young University of Almeria there is the EURL-FV, an internationally accredited laboratory specialized in the analysis of pesticides in fruits and vegetables. EURLs are reference laboratories that aim to ensure high-quality, uniform testing in the EU and support Commission activities on risk management and risk assessment in the area of laboratory analysis. In this framework, the EURL-FV of Almeria combines its deep knowledge of mass spectrometry with crops control, a topic of great interest in this area of Spain. The province of Almeria is in fact widely known for hosting many greenhouses and for being one of the biggest exporters of fruits and vegetables in Europe. For this reason, the mission of the EURL-FV is to use and develop the most modern methods and technologies to help ensuring the safety of natural food products, always paying attention to new emerging contaminants that could be dangerous for the environment and for people’s health

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Figure 2: EURL-FV logo

During my secondment in Almeria, I will have the opportunity to get in touch with the latest high resolution mass spectrometry techniques and to learn more about the optimization and the validation of multiresidue analysis methods, which allow to analyze hundreds of target molecules in a very short time and with an incredibly high accuracy. Moreover, the EURL-FV has recently started to work on the analysis of micro and nano-plastics in crops and other natural products, a trending field of research that I am really interested to explore. In fact, the excessive use and production of plastics that have been characterizing the last decades are currently showing their effects, and “invisible” plastics are now considered one of the main causes of concern for our environment.

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Figure 3: Fragment of microplastics found in bees

I am just taking my first steps in the laboratories of EURL-FV, but I’m already finding this experience very valuable. As soon as I got to Almeria, I felt immediately welcomed by the researchers and the other students that work here at the EURL-FV and I could realize from the very first day how passionate and committed everyone is to their job. Being in touch daily with chemists who are used to working in an analytical reference laboratory is teaching me to be more meticulous in my experimental work, taking into account all the variables that could influence the final result and learning how to minimize their effect. Every interference can be a problem when working with contaminants’ traces and finding ways to eliminate them can be challenging but also very interesting.

I know that I’ll be able to learn a lot from this secondment both from a professional and personal point of view and I’m looking forward to finding out what awaits me!

If you want to learn more about EURLs you can check out their website:

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