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New York increased testing of food and beverage

Staff Writer |
The New York State Food Laboratory has increased testing of food and beverage samples for health hazards, purity and accuracy of labeling by 10 percent – up from 61,000 tests in 2015 to 67,000 in 2016.

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Advanced food testing conducted at the cutting-edge laboratory resulted in more than 300 product recalls and several high-profile food investigations, which led to the removal of contaminated products from shelves across New York.

New York State Grown & Certified is the first statewide, multi-faceted food certification program designed to assist New York farmers.

The program allows farmers to take advantage of the growing demand for locally grown and produced foods, and raises these products to a higher standard by addressing food product labeling.

As part of the Grown & Certified program, the Laboratory has focused its attention on testing products for accuracy in labeling.

Testing protects against economic fraud and ensures contaminated foods are removed from commerce.

For the first time ever, in 2016, the New York State Food Laboratory implemented a DNA-based method to test fish for speciation.

Last year, scientists at the Food Laboratory also increased testing of imported foods, such as cheese and spices.

This research was initiated and conducted as an additional effort to reduce the number of contaminated products in the marketplace.

The Food Laboratory processed 1,073 imported food samples in 2016 – a 28 percent increase from 2015.

The New York State Food Laboratory was one of the first laboratories in the country to test spices for improper use of materials that may have serious health consequences.

In 2016, hundreds of spice samples were tested to identify unlabeled fillers, industrial dyes not approved for food products, and harmful contaminants such as lead.

Additionally, in 2016, the Department of Agriculture and Market’s Divisions of Food Safety and Inspection, and Milk Control and Dairy Services collected over 23,300 food, beverage and milk samples, an increase of 17 percent from last year.

The majority of samples collected are part of routine public health surveillance programs, but many are in response to foodborne illness and outbreak investigations, consumer inquiries, and a variety of other food-related investigations.

The Food Laboratory is accredited to several internationally recognized quality system standards.

Staff conduct innovative and analytical testing in support of food safety and bio-security programs, and consumer and agricultural interests in New York.

The Food Laboratory recently began using whole genome sequencing, which dramatically increases the ability to characterize foodborne pathogens.

This allows staff to accurately identify the sources of contaminated foods, and assist in the reduction of foodborne illnesses across the State.

The Food Laboratory is also a member of the national Food Emergency Response Network, and participates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PulseNet network on public health surveillance and foodborne illness outbreak investigations.

The New York State Food Laboratory relocated to a newly constructed building in 2013. The 67,000 square foot facility is home to 43 microbiologists and chemists and support staff.

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