June 12, 2007

NEWS: FDA lab set to close

Future of FDA’s Lenexa lab uncertain
Legislators work to prevent lab from closing

By Miguel M. Morales

Legislators want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to save its lab in Lenexa, Kan. from closing.

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) says that more than 50 highly trained scientists and researchers would lose their jobs when the Lenexa facility shuts its doors.

“That is hundreds of years of professional scientific expertise effectively flushed down the drain,” said Colleen Kelley, NTEU president.

Kelley also said those experts would most likely find jobs in the private sector rather than transfer to another FDA lab in another state. Such a lost could affect national security.

“The Lenexa lab primarily serves the populations of Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, and is within a day’s drive of four more states,” Kelley explained. “Millions of people could see their health jeopardized if the FDA implements this shortsighted plan.”

Kelley led Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.), Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm, and local FDA employees in a tour of the facility located near 79th and Quivira, March 30.

“With the serious food-related illness issues that have arisen in the past – pet food, peanut butter, spinach, to name a few – the FDA needs to bolster its resources, not deplete them,” Kelley said. “The FDA has never made the case that closing any of its labs will better protect the public’s health. In fact, closing labs like Lenexa will only weaken the agency’s ability to respond to future food-borne emergencies.”

According to the FDA, the Lenexa lab houses the FDA’s Total Diet and Pesticide Research Center. The center conducts research and product analysis on “a wide variety of food and chemicals, including pharmaceutical products, pet food and more than 300 pesticide residues.”

The World Health Organization recognized the lab’s Total Diet Program and in 2002, the FDA outfitted the lab with $5 million in new counter-terrorism equipment.

FDA announced plans to reorganize its Office of Regulatory Affairs, Feb 27. As a result, seven of its 13 labs will close by 2009.

In addition to the lab in Lenexa others labs on the list include Denver, Colo.; Detroit, Mich.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Francisco, Calif.; San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Winchester, Mass.