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Arkansas Human and Animal Food Laboratory (ARLHAF)

Photo of Arkansas Laboratory (ARKL)

Program Capabilities

The Arkansas Human and Animal Food Laboratory (ARLHAF) is a multi-disciplinary laboratory performing regulatory sample analyses and is ISO 17025 accredited.  The lab is co‐located with the FDA National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) in Jefferson, Arkansas, in a 146,400-square-foot facility.  The lab performs its public health function through the work of the following programs and branches.

Food Sanitation – Filth/Entomology

“Filth” is defined as any type of matter that obviously does not belong in a food product.  Identification of filth adulterants (e.g., insects or insect parts) in food products allows assessment of the potential sanitary risk of that product to the consumer.  The primary methods employed by ARKL to identify and confirm the presence of adulterants are through visual macroscopic and microscopic techniques.

Seafood Decomposition

Decomposition can occur due to time and temperature abuse during handling and/or shipping of the product.  Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act Section 402 (a)(3), a food that has decomposed in whole or in part is considered adulterated.  Organoleptic or sensory analysis is perhaps the quickest, most efficient way to screen seafood for odors indicative of spoilage.  In addition to sensory analysis, chemical analysis is used to detect histamines, a bacterial byproduct of decomposing seafood.

BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy)

While there currently is no test for the presence of BSE in animal feed, feed ingredients, and animal feed products, two methods are employed by FDA to detect the presence of certain animal tissues in animal feeds.  These two methods are feed microscopy and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).  Feed is examined microscopically for the presence of animal materials, such as bone, hair, muscle, and other tissue fragments.  Detected contaminants are analyzed by RT-PCR to test for the presence of bovine, sheep, and goat DNA.

Honey Multi-residue Analysis (Chemotherapeutics Detection)

The Arkansas Human and Animal Food Laboratory (ARLHAF) developed and validated a multi-residue method to detect and confirm the presence of 26 different drugs in food samples.  Using a separate methodology, ARLHAF also analyzes for the presence of four nitrofuran metabolites, thus expanding the lab’s residue analytical scope to 30 different analytes from nine different classes of drugs.

Aquaculture (Chemotherapeutics Detection)

The ARLHAF determines the presence of prohibited antimicrobial metabolites such as fluoroquinolones, chloramphenicol, and nitrofuran in shrimp, crab, frog, and crawfish, using multiple extraction techniques including solid-phase extraction, automated solid-phase extraction, microwave digestions, and liquid-liquid salt assisted extractions.  These drug residues are then confirmed using high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence or mass selective detectors.

Pesticide and Industrial Chemicals

The Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals Program examines food and feed for the presence of pesticides such as insecticides and herbicides, endocrine disruptors, and industrial compounds.  ARKL routinely screens products for more than 600 pesticide analytes and is a high-throughput lab for such analyses.  The primary technology employed is triple quadrupole mass spectroscopy.

Persistent Organic Pollutants

Using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry and advanced automation technologies, this unique surveillance program conducts ultra trace quantitative analyses of food and feed products for Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-Dioxins and Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans (D/Fs), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs).


Using conventional and rapid molecular based technologies, the Microbiology Branch analyzes a wide range of imported and domestic food and cosmetics for the presence of pathogens, indicator organisms, and toxins.  Pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) are performed on collected isolates, and resulting libraries are used for agency and multi-agency reference purposes.  This branch examines low-acid canned food products for container integrity and evidence of microbial contamination.

Specialized Capabilities

The ARLHAF has several unique capabilities within the ORS lab system:

  • Nanotechnology – NCTR/ORA NanoCore – The primary focus of the NanoCore is to develop methods for the detection and characterization of nanoscale materials in FDA-regulated products using state-of-the-art instrumentation and techniques.
  • Persistent Organic Pollutants – This surveillance program utilizes unique techniques and instrumentation capable of ultra trace detection.
  • Microbiology – This branch houses ORS’s Salmonella serotyping reference lab.

ARLHAF is a member of the FDA Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Laboratory Response Network (LRN).  ARLHAF has achieved accreditation under the provisions of the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard.

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