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FDA FERN cooperative Agreement Program


Large scale events like the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion of 2010 and infant formula purposely fortified with melamine in China cause great concern and heighten the level of awareness of the importance of food safety. Local, state, and national response mechanisms are in place to quickly respond to these situations and help mitigate unforeseen consequences while protecting public and environmental health. Unfortunately, response assets at every level can quickly become overwhelmed and may require surge or redundant capacity. The Food and Drug Administration Food Emergency Response Network (FDA FERN) is one system in place that is comprised of both federal and state laboratories that bring personnel, supplies, equipment, and expertise together to enable food and food product analyses during these situations. Many laboratories are volunteer laboratories, but 14 member laboratories have entered cooperative agreements for chemistry analysis and are now referred to as FERN cCAP Laboratories. The Arkansas Department of Health-Arkansas Public Health Laboratory (ADH-PHL) became a FERN cCAP Laboratory in 2009 and has built a strong foundation for food chemical analyses, method development, and emergency response. ADH-PHL provides a state-of-the-art laboratory environment for maintaining the Arkansas FERN Chemistry Laboratory. Dedicated laboratory space, technical expertise, quality management systems, ISO 17025 accreditation as well as additional support staff, instrumentation, and space are available if necessary. The entire laboratory staff has experience in the four key project areas of GC-MS, LC- MS, ICP-MS, and ELISA. ADH-PHL also partners with other federal response networks managed by the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency where ADH-PHL has exercised and utilized the Incident Command Center within the state as well as nationally. This knowledge is crucial for mitigating large scale crises where food safety and human health is endangered. The Arkansas FERN Chemistry Laboratory continues to work to expand and enhance the capabilities of FERN by working closely with other cCAP laboratories and FDA. The laboratory is fully staffed, continues to cross-train, and validates FERN testing methods on GC-MS, LC-MS, ICP-MS, and ELISA platforms. The laboratory continues to participate in all proficiency tests provided by FDA and has exercised its response capabilities by developing new methods to successfully participate in these proficiency tests. The laboratory participates in all technical and programmatic meetings, which includes conference calls. Currently, FERN analysts are actively involved in two, large, multi- laboratory method validations. In the past, the laboratory has analyzed numerous food matrices including powdered milk, freeze-dried tuna, spinach, mandarin oranges, pineapple juice, chocolate syrup, soy-based baby formula, snack cakes, energy drinks, drinkable yogurt, salad dressing, catfish, spirits, snow peas, applesauce, cottage cheese, brown sugar, bottled water, cereal, baby food, fruit juice and swordfish. Also, the laboratory has participated in surveillance activities, including the political conventions and analyzing arsenic in juice. The project plan for this cooperative agreement continues to work closely with FDA to develop new methods that are necessary for proactively responding to food safety initiatives while maintaining emergency preparedness by participating in proficiency tests, cross-training staff to provide additional surge support, and continued participation technical and national meetings and conference calls. Training sessions provided by FDA and other FERN partners will also be used to stay up-to-date of the newest technology used by FERN. The project plan also includes commitments for matrix evaluations, analyte extension, method validations and new method development.

Seely, Kathryn
Arkansas Department of Health
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