Department of Agricultural Chemistry Helps Keep Food Safe

Linda Benedict, Bogren, Richard C.

From poultry feed to pesticides and from fertilizer to food, the Department of Agricultural Chemistry, which is a joint effort between the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, provides analytical support for regulatory activities, research and agricultural extension work, according to Mark LeBlanc, director.

“We provide support for AgCenter research scientists and extension specialists by testing plant and animal tissues, soil, water, feeds, fertilizers, pesticides, agricultural chemicals and agricultural commodities,” LeBlanc said. “We also will analyze these samples for the general public for a fee.”

The department analyzes fertilizers, agricultural chemicals and other products regulated by LDAF. These include animal feeds, pet foods, fertilizers, pesticides and pesticide residues in agricultural products and environmental samples.

“It’s the state’s pesticide analysis lab,” said Robert Beine, who retired as director on March 31, 2009.

The laboratory is home to the analytical division of the state Meat Inspection Office, which provides microbial analysis for the state’s HACCP (Hazard Analysis at Critical Control Points) program as well as nutrient analyses of foods.

One component of LDAF testing is for feed adulterants such as fungal toxins as well as antibiotic residue in animal feed, Beine said. For example, in one instance feed with too much fungal toxin was killing horses.

“We try to be sure the consumer, the farmer, is fairly treated. If you feel you have a problem that relates to us – for example, a bad lot of feed – it’s important that you call LDAF and let them investigate,” Beine said.

Beine said LDAF agents will take official samples and maintain the chain of evidence.

Another service the lab provides is fertilizer testing for LDAF. During the fertilizer season, LDAF inspectors pull samples from fertilizer deliveries bound for farmers’ fields and send the samples to the Baton Rouge lab to verify the analysis in the batch matches what the farmer is supposed to be buying.

LDAF inspectors also take samples of agricultural chemicals, termiticides and over-the-counter products, such as disinfectants, lawn-and-garden chemicals and rat poisons, to see that the products meet the analysis stated on the label. And the meat lab tests for safety in processed meats.

During Hurricane Katrina with the talk of “toxic soup,” the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality sent water samples from New Orleans for the lab to test for pesticides, “our specialty,” Beine said. “We found almost nothing.”

Besides serving the AgCenter and LDAF, the department provides testing for individual citizens, such as aflatoxin screening for farmers who want a second opinion from the one they get from a grain elevator.

“We can work beyond our standard list of services,” LeBlanc said. “If scientists want something analyzed, the lab can work with them.”

Rick Bogren

(This article was published in the summer 2009 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

9/2/2009 1:26:18 AM
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