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FERN Awards CAHFS Five-Year Grant for Food Emergency Preparedness and Response


December 10, 2015

The FERN-funded High Resolution Accurate Mass Spectrometer used by CAHFS  for organic chemical detection

The FERN-funded High Resolution Accurate Mass Spectrometer used by CAHFS for organic chemical detection

The Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) has awarded the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS) a five-year grant for food safety emergency preparedness and response totaling $1.89 million.   It will increase the capacity of the lab’s toxicology services to respond to contamination threats in the American food supply involving food animals, and in their day-to-day diagnostic and early detection activities.

The toxicology lab at CAHFS is one of the busiest in the world and offers comprehensive, rapid and reliable diagnostic testing for contaminants that can affect animals and humans, and analyses of suspected contaminated animal feeds and animal-based foods that could prompt regulation to ensure a safe food supply.  In the last ten years, the lab’s toxicologists have responded to several high profile events including testing seafood following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 for presence of carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons, imported protein sources for melamine in 2008, and pet foods for melamine and cyanuric acid in 2007.

Supported by the FDA and USDA, FERN integrates the nation's food-testing laboratories at the local, state, and federal levels into a network that is better able to prevent and respond to widespread and complex emergencies involving biological, chemical, or radiological contamination of food.  CAHFS is the only veterinary diagnostic laboratory funded by FERN and one of only 14 labs in the United States receiving resources and equipment support over the last ten years totaling more than $4.5 million.

State-of-the-art equipment provided by FERN has included sophisticated mass spectrometry systems designed to detect specific chemical contaminants and sample screening for unknown compounds.

“Without FERN’s support, CAHFS could not provide many of its current analytical toxicology services vital to protecting our food supply and ensuring public health,” said Dr. Robert Poppenga, a toxicologist with the lab.