The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA), Division of Federal-State Relations previously awarded the Wadsworth Center's Nuclear Chemistry Laboratory with a cooperative agreement for equipment, supplies, personnel, training, and facility upgrades. As a Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) laboratory, the Wadsworth Center's objective is to maintain and increase its ability to handle surge capacity for the analysis of food and food products in response to radiological threats or other emergency situations through continued FDA funding. The food and food products include imported and finished (ready-to-eat) foods such as: vegetables, fruits, juices, grains and grain products, seafood and other fish products, milk and other dairy products, infant formula, baby foods, bottled water, condiments, and alcoholic beverages. An improved state of radiological preparedness has been achieved through training, enhancement of our current surveillance program, and analytical method development. In cooperation with the FDA, alternative methods for rapid analyses of contaminated foods are being investigated. The additional counting instruments provided by FDA to the Nuclear Chemistry Laboratory (high-purity germanium gamma-ray detectors and a low-background liquid scintillation counter) have been calibrated and used to test existing and new analytical methods. These instruments have increased our sample analysis capacity. One of the outcomes of this ongoing project will be a compendium of methods for preparation and analysis of foods for radiological materials. These methods are being made available on the eLEXNET for other FERN-related laboratories. Our laboratory coordinated the MENU 2010 National Exercise, which included planning, preparation of 729 food samples, distribution to 37 national and international laboratories, and sample verification. Our laboratory will continue to participate in such important exercises to enhance FERN FDA laboratory emergency response.
In response to radiological threats or other nuclear emergency situations, it is important for state health laboratories to maintain and increase their ability to handle surge capacity for the radiological analysis of food products. Rapid method developments, the maintenance of radiological facilities, and the radiological training of personnel will improve the state of radiological preparedness, therefore satisfying the goal of the FDA to ensure public health and safety.