T he laboratory’s work ensures the accuracy of product
labels and exposes levels of contamination, if any. Service’s TOX 1 method for poisons, toxins and other chemical contaminants
(e.g., drugs) for use in catfish to enable US catfish producers to certify safe
Staff The laboratory also has high-volume testing programs for:
The laboratory employs one part-time analyst and 23 full-time staff members,
mostly chemists. It also has three student interns.
• Animal forage, such as hay or alfalfa, to document nutrient profiles via near-
• Irrigation groundwater for the Mississippi Department of Environmental
The laboratory’s yearly budget runs around $2.1 million, including about $1.6
million in state funding to support work for the Mississippi Department of
Agriculture & Commerce, about $240,000 of fee-for-service income and revenue
from assorted grants and contracts.
“You name it, we test it,” said Brown. From petroleum products (about 2,000
samples/year) to animal feeds (2,000 samples/year) to fertilizers (1,200
samples/year) to food, the chem lab does, indeed, test most everything. The
only testing it does not currently perform is biological testing, and this is
due to a lack of samples. As Brown explains, “We do no sampling at all. Most
of our work comes through the Mississippi Department of Agriculture &
Commerce, which collects samples from gas stations, from complaint cases,
• Chicken litter for poultry farmers, who must document levels of nitrogen and
phosphate as part of their required litter management program. (The litter is
often used as a fertilizer.)
• Obtaining ISO 17025 accreditation for the laboratory in November 2016.
This effort was supported by FDA funding and covers six methods—“very
ambitious”—for analyzing pesticides, heavy metals and aflatoxins in food,
feed, water and environmental samples.
• Collaboration: “There’s been a lot of opportunity for us to work in
conjunction with a variety of state organizations and federal agencies—
because of the oil spill, pesticide misuse cases and other events—and I’m
always very pleased how well we combine our resources and work together.”
Christine Rogers analyzes a forage sample via NIR (from r to l:) Gale Hagood, Ashely Meredith, and Jack Atkins prep fish samples for analysis
etc., and is in charge of feeds, fertilizers and pesticides sold in the state.” The
laboratory’s work ensures the accuracy of product labels and exposes levels of
contamination, if any. It also supports criminal investigations, such as a case
last year involving the unintentional poisoning o f an 18-month-old child due
to improper pesticide use and a high-profile 2013 case involving the poisoning
of Auburn University’s landmark oak trees. • Developing affordable services to meet the needs of state clients. Recently
added fee-for-service work includes chicken litter and forage testing
Most of the laboratory’s food testing is done on behalf of the Mississippi
Department of Health and in conjunction with the US Food and Drug
Administration’s (FDA’s) Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards
initiative. Said Brown, “One result of the [2010 Deepwater Horizon] gulf oil
spill has been a closer working relationship among federal and state agencies.
We’re trying to be a bit more proactive with food surveillance, instead
Food testing focuses on products “important to our state,” including
commercial ice, shellfish, farm-raised Mississippi catfish, jams and jellies,
honey, assorted corn-based products, and sweet potatoes and other vegetables.
The laboratory is currently validating the USDA Food Safety Inspection
“Our biggest challenge is the state economy and its impact on our budget.” The
laboratory has had two budget cuts already this year, and a third is likely.
• Maintaining ISO accreditation and expanding the scope of accreditation to
include shellfish testing.
• Expanding grant and contract funding.
• Doing more with less: “We need to become more efficient at what we do and
work smarter.” Brown has instituted an extensive cross-training program for
staff, so they can perform at high levels in multiple areas of the laboratory, as
needed. “We’ve worked really hard on becoming one big team.”
Spring 2017 LAB MATTERS