By Dr. Patrick Luedtke, M.D., President, APHL, Director, Unified State Laboratories, Utah Department of Health
As a member of FDA’s Council of Association Presidents, APHL recently participated in a meeting which provided the opportunity to discuss the concerns of the food laboratory community with senior FDA leadership. Mike Taylor, Dara Corrigan, Joe Reardon, Steve Solomon, Jeff Farrar, and David Elder represented the Office of Foods and the Office of Regulatory Affairs. APHL, as well as many of the other associations present, used this opportunity to convey the crisis status of most state budgets.
A recent Institute of Medicine Report entitled Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration suggests that the FDA leverage state and local resources in meeting their statutory requirements while conserving dwindling federal resources. Owing to each association’s presentation, it is clear FDA officials present at the meeting now have a better appreciation of what little there is to leverage at any level of government given the current economic environment. Despite this challenge, all agreed to continue work toward common public health goals and food supply protection. It is also worth noting that FDA reiterated many times during the meeting their intent to improve communication channels between the Agency and their state and local partners.
Other concerns specific to the food laboratory community were addressed by APHL at this meeting. Despite the absence of a funded working relationship between APHL and FDA, APHL offered our assistance in support of recent moves toward food laboratory accreditation, and we volunteered to participate in FDA initiatives to implement the directives in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Further, we offered our training and education expertise to hold food testing courses for FDA’s customers, and we reminded FDA that many APHL member laboratories have the ability to assist with method development and validation activities. FDA leadership was not optimistic about finding new funding sources for either the Association or state and local agencies, but they were very receptive to hearing our ideas around accreditation and training.
We are extremely grateful to have had this opportunity to meet with senior FDA partners, and we will continue to discuss collaborative opportunities that meet the needs of the FDA, APHL, and our public health and agricultural laboratory members.