Food defense and food safety are core functions of the Food and Drug Administration. These activities are associated with protecting the nation's food supply from intentional tempering or unintentional contamination and to help food processors understand how and where food supplies could be contaminated. If left unabated, food contamination could cause massive illness or death, or produce devastating economic impacts, or mental anxiety (consumer fear, panic, and loss of confidence in the US food supply). Food defense and safety is not only important in terms of public health but has significant economic value and impact on food industries and thus on the US economy. In this vain, Maryland presents significant challenges for food protection with an intimate mix of urban and rural environments and activities. A major gap in the Nation's preparedness is the lack of a comprehensive nationally harmonized State-based food testing accreditation capability and capacity needed to identify, screen, and monitor chemical and microbiological contamination of foods for surveillance, terrorism, or emergencies. The Laboratories Administration food testing laboratory is the state's primary servicing laboratory for conducting chemical and microbiological food/feed analyses on behalf of the Maryland State manufactured food regulatory programs. To better address these laboratory and infrastructure challenges, the Laboratories Administration will use this Cooperative Agreement to: (1) develop, establish, and implement a quality system that meets the management and technical requirements of ISO/IEC 17025:2005 with the goal of achieving laboratory accreditation;(2) participate in proficiency testing studies;(3) establish and maintain staff training, communication systems, and IT management;and (4) conduct gap analysis and request funding to obtain and acquire needed resources to obtain and maintain ISO17025 accreditation in chemistry and microbiology testing. These efforts will lead to national harmonization of tests performed and data generated to support Maryland State manufactured food regulatory programs. Additionally, it will provide Maryland with the ability to monitor certain imported and domestic food products that have a history of past contamination problems or that involve security concerns for the State and the nation. The subsequent surveillance program will also help maintain program proficiency and efficiency needed to ensure surge capacity and an adequate response during a disease outbreak or an actual emergency. The Laboratories Administration further proposes to develop and maintain this program under a timetable that would procure QA technical staff, outside consultation, equipment, supplies;develop and validate methods;train and evaluate staff for accreditation;apply and obtain ISO 17025 accreditation;participate in and maintain PT program;participate in prescribed drills/table top exercises, plan and conduct surveillance monitoring;develop communications architecture with grantor and stakeholders, and improve access, management, and security of information technology. The Laboratories Administration proposes to carry out this project in Year 1 with a requested federal budget of $300,000 and to further operate this project with a projected total budget of $1,200,000 for Years 2 through 5.
By this cooperative agreement, the Laboratories Administration proposes to seek ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation for food chemistry and microbiological testing to support Maryland State manufactured food regulatory programs.