FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, AUG. 11, 2008
Joe Reardon, director
NCDA&CS Food and Drug Protection Division
NCDA&CS food lab selected for federal pilot project
RALEIGH - The microbiology laboratory at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has received $219,000 in federal funding to develop national testing standards for a type of foodborne pathogen, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced.
The agreement is part of the U.S. Food Emergency Response Network, or FERN, a national food testing network developed by the federal government in the wake of 9-11. North Carolina and three other states were added to the program this year. All total, 25 states now receive funding under the network. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The NCDA&CS lab will be looking at methods for testing staphylococcal enterotoxins in certain types of foods, Troxler said. The World Health Organization lists Staphylococcus aureus as one of the seven most important global foodborne pathogens. Staphylococcal food poisoning in the United States causes an estimated 1.5 million illnesses and 1,200 deaths annually.
“There are standard methods for detecting staphylococcus in certain foods, such as cooked chicken, ham, potato salad, pasteurized whole milk and canned mushrooms,” Troxler said. “But standard methods do no exist for a wide variety of other foods, including infant formula, breaded food, baby food, milk, yogurt and peanut butter.”
The staff of the NCDA&CS lab will be testing various methodologies to determine which one would work best as a standard for detecting staphylococcal enterotoxins. “The work we’re doing could lead to national standards and become part of the FERN protocol in the future,” Troxler said.
The federal funding will be used to purchase equipment and supplies to conduct the tests.
FERN is aimed at detecting and responding to bioterrorism agents at the local, state and federal levels. Participating laboratories are responsible for analyzing food samples implicated in threats; responding to terrorist events or contamination; responding to large-scale food emergencies; and providingcontinual monitoring support. The network is coordinated by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration.