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Laboratory Flexible Funding Model Cooperative Agreement Program

Laboratory Flexible Funding Model Program Cooperative Agreement Spotlight

FERN and LFFM in Action

In early 2022, the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) leveraged LFFM laboratories to support surge capacity testing for Cronobacter in a coordinated laboratory response to the recall of powdered infant formula. LFFM labs utilized funds to support testing within their state that aligned with the testing criteria sent out through 50-state messaging. LFFM labs tested over 100 samples. Three LFFM laboratories (Maryland Department of Health — Laboratories Administration, Ohio Department of Agriculture, and West Virginia Department of Agriculture) provided surge capacity to states that were not able to perform their own analyses for product linked to complaints and illnesses.

The FERN was established in 2004 and is dedicated to integrating our nation’s food testing laboratories. The robust emergency response coordination framework (developed through FERN) and the resources provided through the LFFM have enabled these highly trained and competent laboratories to swiftly mobilize to protect our nation’s most precious consumers.   

What is the Laboratory Flexible Funding Model?

This cooperative agreement is intended to enhance the capacity and capabilities of state human and animal feed testing laboratories in support of an integrated food safety system. Specifically, through sample testing in the areas of microbiology, chemistry, and radiochemistry, and the development of special projects that would support and expand that testing.

This project will strengthen FDA's efforts to minimize foodborne exposures and prevent foodborne illness through equipping our partner laboratories with additional resources to increase sample throughput capacity within their state. This enhanced proficiency will drive a risk-based and prevention-focused food safety system that both the FDA and our state partners can utilize.

Samples analyzed under this cooperative agreement could derive from a variety of sources including but not limited to: an approved sample plan, emergency outbreak situations, national special security exercises, or an FDA assignment. Laboratories may be requested to participate in national special security exercises and FDA assignments. Samples may also be collected by other organizations (e.g., FDA or a 3rd party) and submitted to participating laboratories for analysis.

What are its goals?

The major goals of this program are to:

  • Improve human and animal food testing surveillance programs.
  • Enhance the network capacity of state laboratories by using sample testing in the areas of microbiology, chemistry, and radiochemistry, and the development of special projects.
  • Expand the national capacity in scientific technology and other areas of interest.
  • Accelerate foodborne illness outbreak investigations and reduce foodborne illnesses and deaths.
  • Utilize sample data generated by these laboratories to remove adulterated food from commerce and aide regulatory programs in conducting inspections.
  • Develop methods for early identification of emerging issues, monitoring and evaluation for future sampling initiatives.

Who are the current awardees?

United States map displaying 40 FDA funded Laboratory Flexible Funding Model cooperative agreement states:


United States map displaying 40 FDA funded Laboratory Flexible Funding Model cooperative agreement states:

  • There are 55 state programs currently enrolled: AK; AZ; AR; CA*; CO*; CT; FL*; GA; HI; IA*; IL; IN*; KS; KY; LA; MA; MD; MI*; MN*; MO; MS; NC*; NE; NH; NJ*; NM; NV; NY*; OH; PA*; RI; SC; SD; TN; TX*; VA; VT; WA*; WI*; WV.
    • CA, CO, FL, IA, IN, MI, MN, NC, NJ, NY, PA, TX, WA, and WI each have 2 or more agencies with Lab FFM cooperative agreements.
  • Over $24.2M in funding under this cooperative agreement program. 

Microbiology, Chemistry, and Radiochemistry Assessments

The first technical session for this program was held on February 24, 2020. Materials from this session include:

Who can I contact for more information?

Specific questions on this program can be directed to the appropriate Office of Partnerships' contact within the Division of Partnership Investments and Agreements. Please visit the Office of Partnerships Contacts webpage to obtain a downloaded version of the staffing roster.

You can also find contact information and more on the funding opportunity announcement.

General questions can be directed to the Office of Partnerships' general mailbox: op.feedback@fda.hhs.gov.

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