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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

About FDA

Detection and Characterization of Intentional and Unintentional Toxic Food Contaminants

Description: Develop rapid methods of detecting bioterrorism agents in foods, evaluate toxin stability in foods, and characterize the toxicity of food-borne chemical and biochemical contaminants.

Definition: In 2009, NCTR scientists developed a novel and quantitative test method which can detect very small amounts of the naturally occurring plant toxins (ricin and abrin) and shiga-like toxins produced by some E. coli strains. This sensitive test method uses real-time technology which yields faster detection results. These toxins have been designated as Category B Select Agents by HHS because of their potential exploitation by bioterrorists to poison the food supply chain. Studies are being conducted to increase the sensitivity and expand the reliability of the test method in multiple food types.

Public Health Outcome: This research will help FDA to develop methods to assess and manage risks associated with food products that are adulterated, intentionally contaminated, or otherwise found to be detrimental to human health.

1. Chemical Inactivation of Protein Toxins on Food Contact Surfaces

Accomplishment: Our studies showed that in some applications,such as ricin in dried infant formula, sodium hypochlorite wasmore potent than peracetic acid for destroying toxin epitopesdetectable by ELISA and for inactivating the biological activityof these toxins. We found that chlorinated alkaline detergentwas the most effective industrial agent for destroying toxinepitopes. Moreover, peroxyacetic acid-based sanitizer was lesseffective than chlorinated alkaline detergent for destroying toxinepitopes, but it was much more effective than phosphoric acidbaseddetergent. Overall, we found that sodium hypochloriteand hypochlorite-containing products were most effective forinactivating protein toxins in dried food residues on foodcontact surfaces. To view this full report, please visit the following website: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/jf301601v

Briefing Status: COMPLETED

Prior Briefing Status: ON TRACK

Milestone DescriptionMilestone DateMilestone StatusMilestone Completion Date

a. Complete sample analyses for chemical inactivation of ricin in 3 foods by 2 chemical agents

4/30/2010

(1/30/2011)

(4/1/2011)

Completed 4/1/2011

b. Complete sample analyses for inactivation of arin in 3 foods by 2 chemical agents

4/30/2010

(1/30/2011)

(4/1/2011)

Completed 4/1/2011

c. Assess research findings

5/1/2011

Completed 5/1/2011

d. Develop draft report

6/1/2011

Completed 5/27/2011

e. Submit draft report to National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD)

5/27/2011

Completed 5/27/2011

f. Submit Final Report

7/30/2011

Completed 4/13/2012

g. Publish results

9/30/2011

Completed 5/30/2012

2. Rapid Detection of Ribosome-Inactivating Protein Toxins in Foods

Briefing Status: ON TRACK

Prior Briefing Status: ON TRACK

Milestone DescriptionMilestone DateMilestone StatusMilestone Completion Date

a. Complete evaluation of allele-competitive blocker PCR method (1)

5/31/2010

Completed 5/15/2010

b. Complete evaluation of alternative substrates for rapid detection of ricin, abrin, and shiga-like toxins

12/31/2010

Completed 3/15/2011

c. Compare 3 methods for rapid detection of shiga-like toxin activity in fruit juice

6/1/2011

Completed 6/1/2011

d. Compare 3 methods for rapid detection of shiga-like toxin activity in milk

9/1/2011

(TBD)

On Track

e. Measure the rate for the thermal inactivation of shiga-like toxin 1, produced by E. coli O157:H7, in whole milk

9/30/2011

(TBD)

Not Yet Started

f. Compare 3 methods for rapid detection of shiga-like toxin activity in spinach

12/1/2011

(TBD)

Not Yet Started

g. Complete nuclease interference studies with alternative substrates

TBD

Not Yet Started

h. Assess research findings

TBD

Not Yet Started

i. Develop draft Report

TBD

Not Yet Started

j. Obtain NCTR Director approval on draft report via the document tracking system

TBD

Not Yet Started

k. Publish results and prepare Final Report

TBD

Not Yet Started

l. Submit Final Report

TBD

Not Yet Started

Footnotes

  • (1) Allele-competitive blocker PCR method is a method to detect rare forms of a gene, to enhance sensitivity of a PCR-based enzyme assay method that detects damaged ribosomal RNA creacted by the action of ricin, abrin, and shiga-like toxins, naturally occurring toxins that could be used in bioterrorism attacks.

Key Projects Legend

Milestone StatusDefinition
Not Yet StartedWork for specific milestone has not yet been started.
CompletedMilestone and/or overall project is completed.
On TrackMilestone - On track for completion by milestone deadline. Quarter status - Project is on track for completion based on overall milestone status.
On HoldMilestone - On hold, but deadline for completion has not passed. Quarter status - Project is on hold, based on overall milestone status.
DelayedMilestone - Delayed as it has not been completed and deadline has passed. Quarter status - Project is delayed based on overall milestone status.

Glossary

PCR

polymerase chain reaction

Note: The data provided on this website is produced on an ongoing basis for performance management purposes and is subject to change due to updates of preliminary estimates, corrections, or other reasons. In addition, FDA may change the type or amount of data provided on this website at any time. Information marked as "Completed" may include measures and/or key projects for which activities are ongoing but no longer tracked as part of FDA-TRACK.