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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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This Week In FDA History - March 28, 1979

Aerial photo of the Three Mile Island power plant facility
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

March 28, 1979:
A nuclear reactor at the Three Mile Island power plant near Harrisburg, Pa., suffers a partial core meltdown. The FDA immediately began radiation sampling of milk, fish and water within a 20-mile radius of the facility. FDA officials also arranged for the shipment of potassium iodide to protect citizens close to the plant had there been significant environmental leakage from the damaged reactor.  The radiation that did escape from the facility was low enough that use of the protective drug was not needed, and no food or other products were contaminated.

FDA in 2006

The FDA's Office of Crisis Management is on alert 24 hours a day to coordinate responses to unexpected public safety emergencies. Detailed emergency response plans are in place to guide the FDA's immediate actions in biological, chemical, radiological, and other threats. The agency's counterterrorism policies focus on prevention and preparedness should terrorist attacks affect the food supply, deployment in response to national emergencies, medicines, or other FDA-regulated products and industries. The FDA is working with other federal agencies, industry, and foreign governments to ensure the availability of drugs and vaccines through the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The SNS is a stockpile of antibiotics, antitoxins, vaccines, medical supplies, medications and surgical items intended for deployment in response to national emergencies.