Consumer Protection Lab

Salmonella. E.coli. Listeria. Words that make most consumers and farmers cringe are just another day of testing at Ohio’s Consumer Protection Laboratory (CPL). Supporting the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), as well as several federal agencies, CPL tests approximately 50,000 samples for over 250,000 tests annually, working hard to keep consumers safe by identifying serious food risks and potential outbreaks.

Dr. Beverly Byrum, director of laboratories for the ODA, Dr. Mohammed Amin, assistant chief of the CPL, and Soobeng Tan, director of the Analytical Toxicology Lab head the team’s efforts to deliver quality results in a timely manner. The lab is responsible for four critical testing areas: analytical toxicology, general chemistry, microbiological and pesticides. It analyzes a wide range of products including fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat products, and animal feeds, among others.

In the event that a food sample tests positive for a foodborne pathogen like salmonella, CPL “immediately gets in touch with the division that submitted the sample. They follow up with the vendor to determine where the product was distributed, as well as the farm from which it came,” Byrum says.

If the food is distributed only in Ohio, the company is contacted and asked to issue a product recall. The company is requested to respond within a three-hour time span and generally companies are very willing to comply. If the vendor is not willing to issue a recall, the director of the ODA and the director of the Ohio Department of Health may issue a joint public health alert. For contaminated food product distributed across multiple states, the FDA is also notified.

CPL is a member of the FDA and FSIS Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) and serves as the state’s primary emergency response lab.

“We are ready 24/7 for any kind of emergency,” Amin says.

Additionally, as the official drug-testing lab for the Ohio State Racing Commission for more than 40 years, the laboratories play a key role in identifying illegal substances in competitors at Ohio’s commercial racetracks and county fair livestock shows.

See Also:  Best in Show at Ohio Fairs

Because of its focus on quality assurance and testing efficiency, CPL has been awarded ISO 17025 accreditation for many of its testing programs. “Not every lab has accreditation by this international standard,” Byrum says. “We’re constantly expanding our scope of accreditation and in 2013-2014, we expect to bring more laboratory testing programs under the umbrella of accreditation.”

Driving state-of-the-art results means continuous evaluation of the technology and equipment used to ensure that the best science techniques and instruments are being utilized. It’s no easy task, but CPL is up to the challenge to ensure the safety of Ohio’s food and to protect Ohio’s citizens.

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