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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06TEGUCIGALPA2057 2006-10-30 20:29:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

HONDURAN FOOD SAFETY LABS IN DISARRAY

Tags:   EAGR EAID ETRD PGOV PREL HO 
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VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTG #2057/01 3032029
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 302029Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3926
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L TEGUCIGALPA 002057 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/EPSC, WHA/CEN, EB/ABT
AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA FOR STEVE HUETE
STATE PASS USTR FOR AMALITO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2016
TAGS: EAGR EAID ETRD PGOV PREL HO
SUBJECT: HONDURAN FOOD SAFETY LABS IN DISARRAY


Classified By: Ambassador Charles A. Ford for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (SBU) Summary. A recent USDA lab assessment mission
determined that Honduras, food safety organization (Senasa)
does not have labs sufficiently supplied or staffed to do
even the most basic food safety testing. The assessment team
visited animal health, plant health and pesticide detection
labs. Of those labs, the only one that the team found capable
of performing reliable tests is the pesticides lab which
receives direct funding from OIRSA. Senasa suffers from lack
of sufficient funding and lack of trained personnel. The
assessment team told Econoff that they cannot recommend that
USDA accept Senasa sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) testing
certificates as sufficient proof of food safety. This
endangers Honduran public health, and will seriously hinder
Honduras, ability to take advantage of new opportunities to
export agricultural products to the U.S. under CAFTA. End
summary.



2. (SBU) The USDA lab assessment team conducted a
comprehensive analysis of the capabilities of Senasa,s
animal health, plant health, and pesticide detection labs.
They concluded that lab conditions are so poor that it would
be difficult for USDA to approve any products going to the
U.S. solely with Senasa testing. Significant USG oversight at
every step would be necessary. The general problems the team
found include lack of funding and lack of adequately trained
personnel. Funding directly impacts the ability of the labs
to reliably complete the most rudimentary tests. The
assessment team found that the labs lack even the most basic
materials such as paper towels and pipettes.



3. (U) The GoH has contracted regional laboratory advisor
Oirsa to manage certain administrative aspects of Senasa,
most importantly collection and dispersal of funds to the
laboratories. Money should be flowing back to the labs from
the fees Oirsa and Senasa collect ) and Oirsa manages - for
laboratory services rendered to producers and processors of
food products. However, funds only appear to be reaching the
pesticide lab - which is the only lab that Oirsa directly
administers - and not the animal or plant health labs. Senasa
Director Cesar Noe Pino commented that the GoH would have to
modify certain laws to be able to have the money returned
directly to all of Senasa,s labs. (Note. Post believes Noe
Pino is referring to laws that require fees charged for
government services flow into government coffers. Certain
agencies, such as the mining authority, have special
permissions to retain fees for services, but these
permissions have been written directly into the laws which
established these agencies. End note.)



4. (U) Technicians generally are not college-educated and
often use outdated (up to 30 years-old) techniques, protocols
and reagents. Other problems included lack of physical space
to isolate and separately ventilate/air condition different
tests and/or stages of tests in certain labs. The animal
health laboratory was by far in the worst condition. The team
said that not only are the laboratory facilities and
protocols inadequate, so are the field investigations the lab
conducts at the farms and processing plants. (Comment: This
is particularly worrisome in the face of growing
international concern over avian influenza, as it is far from
clear Honduras has the capability to detect, much less
counter, this lethal disease. End Comment.) The plant health
laboratory does not have the capability to do diagnostic
testing, rather only basic nimatodal testing.



5. (U) The pesticide lab is the one laboratory that
approaches U.S. standards and conducts credible tests, for
the most part. It has modern equipment ) including a LC mass
spectrometer - and sufficient space to do all types of
pesticides testing. However, the team expressed concern that
the lab employees do not fully understand how to use the
equipment or how to maintain it. In fact, the team member who
led the assessment of this lab had to install the LC mass
spectrometer and a calorimetric pump for the lab because
there was not sufficient local technical expertise to do so.
(The million-dollar machine, provided by the World Bank, had
reportedly been sitting in a box for months at the lab before
the visiting USG team fortuitously offered to install it for
them.) The team recommended that Senasa hire a PhD level
chemist to run the lab.



6. (SBU) Cesar Noe Pino seemed very open and listened
attentively to the assessment team,s critiques and
suggestions. Nevertheless, he did not appear to initially
comprehend that there are two key problems. Noe Pino focuses
mainly on the need to improve training for lab techs. The
assessment team had to reiterate several times that training
will not solve Senasa,s problems because training does no
good if there are no materials in the labs with which to
work.



7. (C) Comment. The lab assessment team,s report will be
another blot on the report card of the Zelaya Administration.
Although professing dedication to free trade, Zelaya,s
government does not take the necessary steps to ensure that
the Honduran government and private sector are prepared to
take advantage of CAFTA. If Senasa is unable to conduct
effective food safety tests, USDA will have to approve all
products for export via individual product agreements and
inspections, significantly slowing the exportation process.
The sorry state of Senasa,s labs is just one more example of
this general trend of un-preparedness.



8. (C) Comment continued: It is also indicative of a
preference of depriving essential government services of
funding in the hope that international donors will pick up
the bill. Meanwhile, the Zelaya Administration pursues pet
projects, such as basic grains subsidies, that not only are
unproductive but run counter to USG and other donor programs
of market-based agricultural diversification. End comment.



9. (U) The USDA lab assessment team did not have the
opportunity to clear this cable before departing.
FORD