Award from the Association of Public Health Laboratories Celebrates Excellence in Environmental Stewardship and Health Promotion among Laboratories Nationwide
Albany, NY (July 25, 2014)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the New York State Food Safety and Metrology Laboratory, which protects New Yorkers from food borne pathogens and illnesses, has been awarded the “Nation’s Healthiest Lab Award” by the Association of Public Health Laboratories. The award celebrates excellence in environmental stewardship and health promotion in both practice and policy, and recognizes the laboratory that demonstrates outstanding efforts to reduce its collective environmental impact and ensure a healthy workplace.
“The New York State Food Safety and Metrology Laboratory is one of the finest public laboratories of its kind in the country, and we are pleased that it’s being recognized for its commitment to promoting environmental stewardship and a healthy workplace,” said Governor Cuomo. “This state-of-the-art laboratory performs a vital public service by helping ensure a safe food supply for all New Yorkers, and receiving this award is a great achievement for the team at this facility.”
The award was presented based on a self-assessment checklist, which was developed as an evaluation tool to identify environmental responsibility and healthy workplace practices within member laboratories. The self-assessment fields included three main areas of focus within the laboratory framework: health promotion, environmental sustainability and policy implementation. The awards committee at the Association of Public Health Laboratories reviewed the surveys and determined that the New York State Food Safety and Metrology Laboratory was this year’s winner based on the scores compiled in its checklist. Most of the points were related to environmental sustainability.
The goals of the healthiest laboratory initiative are to foster healthy personal choices for employees, members and guests; environmental sustainability; initiatives related to promoting a prevention-focused perspective on health; and a role in engaging the broader laboratory community.
This state-of-the-art laboratory, located in Albany and operated by the Department of Agriculture and Markets, protects New Yorkers from food borne pathogens and illnesses by analyzing over 20,000 food and beverage samples per year for biological and chemical hazards, standards of identity, and compliance with state and federal regulations. The facility also safely stores and maintains the State’s primary standards of mass, length, temperature and volume, which in turn are used to test commercial weighing and measuring devices such as scales in grocery stores, pumps at gas stations, meters on fuel oil or propane delivery vehicles, and meters in taxicabs.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “This is a first rate laboratory that will serve New Yorkers for generations. Our staff in the Food and Metrology Laboratory couldn’t be prouder to be working in such a top notch laboratory that is now being recognized as one of the finest of its kind in the country. It’s a tremendous honor for us to be acknowledged on a national scale.”
The Department of Agriculture and Markets and the State Office of General Services (OGS) collaborated from the beginning on an innovative engineering plan during construction of the lab.
OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, “This building embraces Governor Cuomo’s commitment to significant sustainability and energy efficiency and I am extremely pleased with the work that the team at OGS did in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Markets to bring this project to fruition. The state-of-the-art facility will reduce energy costs by 23 percent, storm water runoff by 51 percent and potable water use by 23 percent. In addition, 75 percent of construction waste on the project was diverted from landfills and 29 percent of material in the building incorporates recycled materials.”
The Food Safety Laboratory tests food, dairy products and beverages for specific health hazards, purity, and accurate labeling. The lab also performs tests on animal feed, pet food, and lime samples. It supports the regulatory programs of the Divisions of Food Safety and Inspection, Milk Control and Dairy Services and Plant Industry by testing samples that are collected as part of scheduled regulatory or surveillance programs. The lab also works with partners at the state and federal levels to respond to disease outbreak investigations, consumer complaints and a variety of other food related investigations.
New York’s food safety program initiates over 300 food recalls every year, many of which result in federal recalls with national impact. Testing is focused on the most common food borne pathogens, allergens, and chemical contaminants including antibiotic residues, pesticides and illegal food coloring.
The Weights and Measures Metrology laboratory, also located in the facility, utilizes precise environmental controls for temperature and humidity to reduce the overall uncertainty for measurements. It contains specially designed tables to reduce the effects of vibration on measurements, which are often accurate to fractions of a milligram. It also includes: a specially designed water separator system so residual petroleum products can be disposed of safely following testing; a temperature-controlled high-bay garage with an overhead crane to test large volume measures, typically used to test high-flow metering systems and petroleum terminals; and large capacity mass comparators used to test large capacity scales at facilities such as scrap metal yards, asphalt plants, fertilizer plants and dairy processing plants. The laboratory also performs calibrations for industries such as pharmaceutical, electronics, and research and development.
Additional information about the Division of Food Laboratory can be found here.
Additional information about the Bureau of Weights and Measures can be found here.