On 1 June, WUR research institute Rikilt will merge with the food and feed safety lab run by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). The merged institute will get a new name: Wageningen Food Safety Research.
© Sven Menschel
The merger between the research labs, which was signed on 14 January on Wageningen campus, did not come as a surprise. Both labs are already housed in the same building on campus, and talks have been ongoing about the merger for several years. The merger means that 130 staff at the NVWA lab will become employees of Wageningen Research. Together with the 220 plus staff at Rikilt, they will form a new institute. That institute will be responsible for almost all statutory research tasks for the Dutch government relating to food safety, for example in the event of food fraud incidents like the fipronil affair.
Rikilt already focuses on statutory research tasks but it also performs tests for the food industry. The merger means Rikilt will have to stop these contracts, says Rikilt director Robert van Gorcom. ‘But there weren’t that many anyway.’ On the other hand, the new institute will be able to carry out EU projects and other grant-funded projects with international science institutes and nutritional companies.
A key advantage of the merger is that it creates an institute that is one of the top players internationally and has sufficient critical mass, stressed NVWA Inspector-General Rob van Lint and President of the WUR Executive Board Louise Fresco after signing the document. The NVWA lab largely concentrated on regular laboratory tests to check products for food safety while Rikilt focused more on the development of expertise and new analysis methods. Fresco thinks embedding the institute in WUR will create more room for innovation. AS