The Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) currently comprises 169 federal, state, and local government regulatory laboratories with varying capacities to perform threat agent testing and is jointly overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and
Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA).
The FERN Staff in USDA FSIS is seeking to award one cooperative agreement used in assessing the FERN program members providing capacity and capability for food defense and food safety testing, in both microbiology and chemistry disciplines.
This agreement will be used in the assessment of the network’s microbiological and chemical threat agent testing utilizing FERN and other methods by administering proficiency samples under ISO 17043 accreditation.
This cooperative agreement is on a 1 year funding cycle and up to $100,000 annually.
This announcement may be annually renewable for up to 5 years.
All funding is contingent on continued Agency funding of the program and a review of past performance of the participant laboratory.
Indirect costs are capped at 10% of the total award amount.Project Description - Under the agreement the PT provider will perform all preliminary research, modeling, analysis, storage, packing and shipment for each PT event.
The PT events will encompass three major project areas for FY 21:1) FERN wide proficiency samples for microbiological (up to 75 sample sets) and chemical agents (up to 60 sample sets), delivered in FSIS regulated matrices.
Each sample set will contain 5-8 individual samples.
At least 2 – 3 offerings per year will be administered and each will be agreed upon by the FERN Proficiency Testing Committee.2) Provide 8 FERN laboratories C.
perfringens challenge samples to include at a minimum:Sample Set 1 Requested1 samples uninoculated2 samples high vegetative1 sample high vegetative/spores1 sample low sporesSample Set 2 Requested1 sample uninoculated2 samples low vegetative cells1 sample low vegetative cells/spores1 sample high spores3) Thermally processed foods presents an additional possible funding source later in the agreement year.
Description of Thermally Processed PT’s:
4 - 6 times annually, a series of 12 samples will be sent to one USDA FSIS Field laboratory.
These samples may contain microbiological agents as possible contaminants of ineffective thermal processing and also include samples from retort canning, tetrapak processing to be used for physical examination of cans/packages for defects.
Organisms to be used may include, but not limited to, Clostridium sporogenes, Enterococcus faecalis, Geobacillus stearothermophilus.