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Forensic Chemistry Center (FCC)

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Program Capabilities

The Forensic Chemistry Center (FCC) serves as the FDA’s premier national forensic laboratory for method development, research, and analyses related to criminal, regulatory, and counter terrorism investigations. The FCC is accredited by ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) / American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) – International Program in the field of Forensic Science Testing.A Biosafety Level 3 laboratory is available for the safe analysis of unknown, high-risk samples. FCC provides expert technical support and analyses for the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and for many high-profile and emergency FDA regulatory samples to protect the consumer from fraudulent and harmful products. FCC scientists provide advice in forensic research areas to Agency officials and expert testimony in criminal trials on results of forensic analyses.

This full-service laboratory provides rapid response and specialized analytical services in forensic chemistry and molecular/microbiology related to product tampering, counterfeiting, and adulteration/contamination. FCC scientists have established global partnerships and provide problem solving in support of substandard and falsified products. FCC scientists participate in field testing using hand held tools and also provide training to Agency and international scientists and field investigators on emerging methods and new forensic tools.

Specialized Capabilities

The FCC uses a variety of separation and detection techniques to identify unknown/non-targeted chemical substances and to quantitate targeted analytes. The tools employed include microchemical tests, gas and liquid chromatography with mass spectrometric detection, capillary electrophoresis, nuclear magnetic resonance, and high-performance liquid chromatography. The laboratory employs light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, image analysis, variable wavelength light source analysis, and Raman and near-infrared imaging to examine samples. Isotope ratio mass spectrometry and cavity ring down spectroscopy are used to detect economic adulteration.

The FCC conducts elemental analyses using X-ray fluorescence, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and energy dispersive X-ray analysis. Immunoassay-based tests (e.g., enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and lateral flow devices), gel electrophoresis, and mass spectroscopy are used for the detection and characterization of proteins. Real-time polymerase chain reaction is used for rapid detection of microorganisms including bacteria, molds, and viruses. Microorganisms isolated from various sample matrices are identified through DNA sequencing, using either 16S rDNA technology or whole genome sequencing for organism traceback. DNA-based molecular biology techniques are used to speciate products ranging from fish to plant material such as tobacco, in cases of counterfeiting or consumer fraud.


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