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Before it gets to your mouth, it passes through Adolfo Lutz

Food, medicine and cosmetics: screened at the two centers

Annually around 12,000 samples of food, drinks, and medicines sold on the market arrive for analysis at the Adolfo Lutz Institute of the Health Department of the State of São Paulo. “Since each sample is submitted to about five examinations, consequently we carry out approximately 60,000 exams per year” calculates the researcher Odair Zenebon, head of the Bromatology and Chemistry Division. These are indispensable analyses for the detection of contaminated foodstuffs and of tampered medicines, which place at risk the health of the Brazilian consumer, sent in by agents of the Health Department and by institutions dealing with consumer protection. Besides the bacteriological analysis of the products, the institute develops further research and provides a diagnostic service of illnesses through virus, bacterium, fungus or parasite, exams for the evaluation of outbreaks and epidemics and watches out for infectious agents in wild animal reservations. This is an essential activity to prevent and to overcome epidemics.

Because of its competence, the Adolfo Lutz Institute is a recognized international research center in the area of sanitary watch. Established in 1892, under the name of the Bacteriological Institute, since the turn of the century its performance has had a tremendous impact on public health. Nonetheless, a few years ago its activity was jeopardized by the poor conditions of its laboratories and by lack of more modern equipment.

The Infrastructure Program set aside for the Adolfo Lutz Institute close to R$ 3.3 million, a large part of which was invested in the Bromatology and Chemistry Division. The building was constructed in 1971 and had never gone through any kind of ample renovation. The first step was to install new electrical wiring which feeds the five floors of the building.

Laboratories in the Food sectors (microbiology, microscopy, chromatography, beverages, oils and fats, starches, dairy products, and sweets), Applied Chemistry (packaging, cosmetics, water, chemical biology, additives and residual pesticides) and Medicines (pharmaceutical chemistry, antibiotics, pharmacognosis, and the control of sterilization and pyrogenic) were all renovated, with the construction of benches and new laboratory furniture. The impact, already perceived, was that the quality analyses of foodstuffs that are applying for registry in the Ministry of Health profited from greater agility and a larger volume.

Water for hemodialysis
The assistance from the Infra program also allowed for the installation of two new areas in the sector of Bromatology: the Sensorial Analysis Laboratory that simulates human senses, especially touch, smell and taste; and a Clean Room totally free of particles and contamination used for the analysis of the water used in hospitals for hemodialysis.

Through resources from another section of the program, that of Multi-Use Equipment (afterwards transformed into an autonomous program) it was possible to purchase equipment for the common use of various researchers, such as gas chromatography, with mass detectors to identify and quantify contaminants and substitutes in food; liquid-gas chromatography for the separation of particles; and an atomic absorption spectrophotometer that determines the presence of metal residues in foods and biological samples.

Pharmacy of USP
Another institution also dedicated to testing and to the analysis of products for use by the population, is the Pharmaceutical Sciences Faculty of USP, which received nearly R$ 2.5 million from the Infrastructure Program. The researcher Maria Inês Miritello Santoro, responsible for the Physics and Chemistry Control Laboratory of Medicines and Cosmetics Quality, was one of those who benefited. One of her research lines is the development of new analytical methods to establish the ideal conditions of production, transportation and storage of medicines in tropical climates, as well as determining the correct validity date, looking into the type of chemical degradation that occurs with these therapeutic substances.

“This research has, among other objectives, its immediate application in the production of medicines by Furp (Foundation for Popular Medicines)”, says Maria Inês. The Furp, of the Department of Health, produces more than 100 medical items, from analgesics and saline solutions to chemotherapies, antivirus (such as AZT used against Aids) and antibiotics (amoxicillin, cephalothin and tetracycline) for distribution to the poorer classes of the population. During the year 2000, the factory produced 1.81 billion units, distributed throughout 3,200 Brazilian municipalities. In the area of cosmetics, the scientist is dedicating herself to the study of the quality of solar filters, fundamental for the protection of the skin against the ultraviolet and infrared rays of the sun and consequently for the prevention of skin cancer.

The resources of the Infrastructure Program further allowed for the installation of a magnetic resonance laboratory in the pharmaceutical chemical sector for the study of synthesized molecules. It was also possible to modernize the microbiology laboratory that carries out routine analysis for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, and to restructure the pharmacognosis laboratory that specializes in medicinal plants.