November 19, 2007 — /FDA Digest/ — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) today announced the award of three lab grants, designed to boost the food screening capabilities and spot radioactive material in food, resulting from deliberate or accidental contamination. These labs are part of the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN).
The three-year grants provide $250,000 a year for supplies, personnel, minor facility upgrades, and training. Recipients of the grants are the Texas Department of State Health Services Laboratory, the New York Health Research/New York Department of Health, and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene.
FDA’s ORA will expand its testing program to address the threat to food safety through radiological terrorism events. ORA has developed radiological screening and analysis methodologies used to evaluate foods and food products.
The grants are targeted toward enhanced detection of radiological contamination and thus enhance the nation’s overall capability to rapidly detect and respond to deliberate attacks on the food supply.
The grant awards further expand the FDA’s ability to promote the integrated strategy for protecting the nation’s food supply through the three core elements of prevention, intervention, and response, as outlined in the agency’s Food Protection Plan. These funded labs will be involved in food defense surveillance testing as well as bolstering the FDA’s emergency response efforts by increasing the capacity for testing of foods for radioactive contamination, intentional or accidental.
The selected laboratories will receive funds to assist in acquiring supplies, personnel, and facility upgrades. The labs will receive training in current food testing methodologies, participate in method development and validation, proficiency testing, and food defense surveillance assignments.
Two key project areas have been identified for the grant recipients. These areas involve the detection of radioactive contamination, utilizing the most advanced detection systems available.
FERN’s mission is to integrate the nation’s food-testing laboratories at the local, state, and federal levels into a network able to respond to emergencies involving biological, chemical, or radiological food contamination. The network can respond to emergencies related to agents in food and restore the public’s confidence in the food supply.