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Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL)

Program Capabilities


The Chemistry Branch of PNL is supported by a broad range of technologies such as gas/liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.  It routinely performs analyses for pesticide contamination in a wide variety of products; mycotoxin contamination in seeds, grains, nuts, and apple juice; adulteration in submitted dietary supplement samples; as well as analyses for the presence of histamine in scombrotoxin fish, domoic acid in shellfish, and antibiotics in seafood.  PNL chemists also accompany FDA investigators on international/domestic inspections for food and pharmaceutical products.


The Microbiology Branch of PNL tests for foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella, E. coli, Staphylococcus, Listeria, Vibrio, and Campylobacter bacterial species, applying techniques ranging from primary isolation to whole genome sequence.  In addition, PNL screens food products for the presence of viral pathogens (Norovirus and He Hepatitis A) and parasites such as Cyclospora.  The experienced PNL microbiologists contribute to method development, participate in the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) and Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network (CORE) responses to food-associated disease outbreaks.  PNL is home to scientists who examine seafood (and food) by sensory evaluation to determine levels of decomposition as well as entomologists who extract filth from FDA regulated foods (insect, rodent, bird, and other extraneous filth); perform fish speciation by DNA barcoding; and determine the presence of prohibited-matter in animal feed, using microscopy and PCR.  Furthermore, PNL microbiologists regularly participate in international/domestic inspections involving sterility evaluation of manufactured pharmaceuticals produced in foreign facilities but destined for the U.S. market.

Specialized Capabilities

Applied Technology Center (ATC)

The Applied Technology Center (ATC) is PNL’s core methods development branch.  ATC provides expertise in molecular biology, microbiology, virology, and chemistry to FDA’s scientific community and is active in networks such as PulseNet, FERN, and AOAC (informally known as the Association of Analytical Communities).  ATC scientists have contributed methodology to ORA programs involving produce safety, food pathogens, marine toxins, and seafood chemotherapeutics and decomposition.  In addition, ATC scientists are active in providing national and agency-wide technical training, coordinating technical conferences, providing editorial peer review, and publishing in international scientific journals.

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