Lab Matters Spring 2021 - Page 29

MEMBERSHIP
Agriculture and Consumer Services – Bureau of Food Laboratories as an analyst , progressed a few years later to supervisor of the Molecular Section and then , in 2013 , to bureau chief .
In 2015 , the native of Brazil seized the opportunity to move from sunny Tallahassee to Albany , NY — where snowfall averages 52 inches a year — to assume the position of director at the Food Laboratory . Ishida remains at the helm six years later , undeterred by snow , sleet and ice .
Her position requires close coordination with other members of her department ’ s leadership team , including its Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner , the directors of the other divisions in the department ( Milk Control and Dairy Services , Food Safety and Inspection and Plant Industry ) and state regulatory inspectors . She frequently communicates with the Commissioner ’ s office , other department directors and inspectors to ensure that the Food Laboratory remains aligned with the primary mission of the Department .
Ishida enjoys being part of a team dedicated to protecting the public ’ s health . “ During this pandemic , we have continued to work every day to make sure that New York ’ s food is safe to eat . The role we play ensures people , even during a worldwide pandemic , have access to safe food and remain healthy .” She adds , “ This work is never monotonous . There ’ s always something different happening every day .”
Funding
The Food Laboratory receives most of its funding from the state . Cooperative agreements with US federal agencies provide additional support to the overall mission of the food laboratory . New York is one of 10 states participating in USDA ’ s National Pesticide Data Program , which tests for pesticide residues in food , particularly foods eaten by children . In 2020 , the laboratory secured a second cooperative agreement with FDA to conduct surveillance of human and animal foods . The agreement provides flexible funding for a range of projects to enhance data sharing , develop test methods , and build overall capacity to improve the state ’ s overall surveillance of
Food Laboratory Specialist 1 Jolanta ( Jola ) Jakubiak prepares dairy samples for testing ( pre-pandemic ). Photo : NYS Food Lab
food so that it is safe for New Yorkers to consume .
Staff
A staff of 38 , including 12 microbiologists and 17 chemists , keeps the Food Laboratory humming . Pre-pandemic , staff coordinated their activities via weekly “ huddle ” meetings , regular senior staff meetings and an annual continuing education workshop . Currently , the staff communicates online and , if in person , in accordance with the appropriate Department of Health COVID-19 guidelines .
The staff shares a common love of food . Ishida says , “ We are a food lab , so we love food ! There is food at any lab celebration or event — birthdays , Halloween , retirements . We like to eat .” The team looks forward to resuming these events when the COVID-19 pandemic is over .
Successes
• Securing the FDA cooperative agreement to provide a new source of flexible funding . Per Ishida , “ It was a lot of work !”
• Implementing Cyclospora testing of contaminated berries , herbs and leafy greens .
• Fully implementing whole genome sequencing and hiring a full-time , permanent bioinformatician to analyze the data .
• Launching an effective two-year traineeship for newly hired staff without laboratory experience .
• Maintaining the laboratory ’ s ISO 17025 accreditation via training and regular proficiency testing .
• Initiating an annual staff continuing education workshop where staff can share their work , discuss the director ’ s plans for the coming year and receive updated training .
Challenges
• Recruiting qualified analysts .
• Planning for the retirement of laboratory supervisors , most of whom have over 25 years of experience . Concurrent retirements will entail careful application of the laboratory ’ s succession plan , documented transfer of knowledge and training of subsequent new hires .
• Managing the laboratory effectively amid state fiscal constraints .
Goals
• Continue to maintain open lines of communication with other department divisions and strengthen relationships with federal partners ( FDA , USDA ).
• Expand the food laboratory ’ s testing capabilities .
• Advance the use of new analytical technologies as they emerge .
• Foster a positive working environment . n
Food Laboratory Specialist 1 Peter Olsen prepares samples for DNA extraction ( pre-pandemic ). Photo : NYS Food Lab
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