Researchers from the Edgewood Biological Chemical Center (ECBC) Chemical Biological Applications & Risk Reduction (CBARR) unit recently answered the call for help all the way from South Dakota to analyze potentially unsafe meat products.
When a meat producer in the state voiced concerns over the safety of its product to inspectors, the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at South Dakota State University (SDSU) needed to conduct additional chemical testing to determine whether or not Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic agent, was present.
Federal and state funding cuts caused SDSU’s biochemistry laboratory to close in 2011, leaving the university without the facility or personnel to support a core chemistry capability for food testing. With no USDA laboratory located in South Dakota to reach out to, SDSU contacted the national Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) for help.
FERN, an integrated network of food-testing laboratories across local, state and federal levels in the United States, facilitated the partnership between SDSU and CBARR’s Environmental Chemical Monitoring Laboratory at Edgewood.
Building on references, CBARR researchers developed and validated testing and matrix standards and conducted the analysis required to confirm a compound called Ivermectin was not present. The anti-parasitic agent in unsafe levels can cause humans to develop mydriasis, depression, coma, tremors, ataxia, stupor, and drooling.
“A lot of chemistry laboratories that have such a high sample throughput usually don’t have the time for some of these more unique cases,” said Laura Ruesch from SDSU. “ECBC really went out of their way to help us out. A lot of places just didn’t have the time or the qualified staff available to investigate that method and put it into place.”
CBARR Senior Chemist Nam-Phuong Nguyen spearheaded the effort. Nguyen had previous experience creating and verifying testing methods in food for the USDA, an invaluable resource when conducting this type of work with a quick turnaround time.
“Before working on this project for SDSU, CBARR had done work on a food project for the USDA where we were asked to validate their developing method of detecting three compounds of interest in various food matrices, including orange juice, apple juice, egg yolk, egg white, whole milk, 2 percent milk, hot dog and ground beef, and deli turkey,” Nguyen said. “Although the two projects were seemingly different, the same concepts, with respect to the development and validation of methods, were applied.”
CBARR was accepted into the FERN as a chemical, biological and radiological testing laboratory in January 2009, and has performed method equivalency testing for biological analysis with food matrices for other FERN partners. The work with SDSU marks the first time CBARR has expanded its FERN efforts to include chemical testing.