Sept. 12 marked the first training session held at the International Food Safety Training Laboratory at the University of Maryland in College Park, the world’s first and only permanent food safety lab to offer hands-on lab training in detection methods, along with lessons on regulatory standards.
Students from China and Indonesia participated in the training on pesticide residue analysis, intended to improve the safety of foods imported to the U.S. from those countries.
The laboratory, sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the University of Maryland, and their Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN), along with the Waters Corporation, is operated by JIFSAN. When it reaches full capacity, the lab is expected to train some 200 professionals per year in subjects such as detection of chemical and microbiological contaminants and sample preparation and testing in accordance with accepted methods. The faculty, which will be primarily composed of scientists from the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, along with university experts, will use equipment that includes state-of-the-art ultraperformance liquid chromatography, with photodiode array, fluorescence, and mass spectrometry detection—all provided by Waters.
“It’s a true public-private partnership,” said Janie DuBois, PhD, manager of the laboratory. “Industry has a renewed interest in understanding U.S. regulations for imports; they have to provide more information, so a lot of labs are thinking that they need to know more about this issue and have more people trained in these techniques.”
The laboratory is split in two—one side devoted to wet chemistry and one to instrumentation chemistry. At present, only the “wet chemistry” half is operational. “March will be our first real course, on cronobacter and infant formula,” said Dr. DuBois. “When we’re fully up and running, we expect to run 15 to 20 courses a year.
Next year we’ll be running at about half to two-thirds speed, and by the end of 2012, we will have a full schedule for 2013.”
Most of the trainees will be from overseas, because the focus is largely on imported foods, but Dr. DuBois said that there will be some domestic focus as well. “That will probably get a little less attention, because some of those courses may be dedicated to a particular group and not open to the public, but we do want to offer open courses for U.S. industry as well.”