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Research Projects

Since 2010, the WVDA has been awarded every year a highly competitive Microbiological and Chemistry Cooperative Agreement through the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) and the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). FERN is a collaboration of federal, state, and local laboratories and universities which integrate the nation's food-testing laboratories into a network that can respond to emergencies involving biological, chemical, or radiological contamination of food. The grant supports funding for salaries of employees, supplies, equipment, training, travel, and maintenance costs related to research, validation, proficiency, and surveillance testing. The WVDA Microbiology and Pesticide / Residue Laboratories analyze samples and controls for FERN. This included samples for detection of traditional foodborne analytes, as well as bioterrorism agents. The WVDA Microbiology Laboratory analyze FERN samples for ricin, abrin, B. anthracis, C. botulinum, F. tularensis, Y. pestis, Salmonella spp, and Staphylococcal enterotoxins. The WVDA Pesticide / Residue Laboratory analyze FERN samples for the detection of twenty-one (21) various pesticides, metals, controlled substances, and general poisons.

What we do…

We keep America safe through research, development, and validation of new detection methods for foodborne contaminants, chemical adulterants, and bioterrorism agents


Lab 1


The WVDA receives federal funding for a variety of research & development projects


The WVDA READ Microbiology and Chemistry Laboratories are 1 of 10 Level 1 (highest level) FERN labs in the nation

Designated the Go-To Laboratory in the US for Ricin detection in foods

13 Peer reviewed scientific publications and 8 official USDA, FDA, & FERN methods

Lab 2



Developed the FIRST method in the country for Abrin detection in Foods

Lab 3 Lab 4


Led a validation study for this method with State Health, Agricultural, and University Laboratories throughout the US



The WVDA began the first national proficiency program for the detection of abrin toxin in foods where twelve (12) laboratories participated throughout the country. The WVDA had previously developed, validated, and authored the official FERN abrin detection method. Chemistry and Microbiological Laboratories throughout the country participated in the proficiency test.

Designed and led the first national Abrin proficiency testing program in foods for the Food Emergency Response Network

Lab 5


Lab 6


The WVDA was the only state laboratory in the country to work with FDA Laboratories to validate a method for the detection of Norovirus and Hepatitis A in Shellfish


Lab 7


Performed a large-scale validation study to expand an Anthrax detection method into USDA commodities

Lab 8 Lab 9 Lab 10


Developed a handheld screening method & led a multi-laboratory validation study for the detection of Ricin in foods

Lab 11 Lab 12 Lab 13


Validated a method for the USDA Specialty Crops Program to detect Salmonella in apples by combining immumomagnetic separation with liquid crystal

Lab 14 Lab 15 Lab 16


Data from FERN research has been presented at meetings such as the International Associated of Food Protection and the American Society for Microbiology.


WVDA Scientists conduct laboratory training courses with scientists for the USDA, FDA, & FERN in State Labs and Universities throughout the US

Lab 17
Lab 18