Sara McGrath, Ph.D.
FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Sara McGrath is a chemist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in College Park, MD. McGrath received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Illinois Wesleyan University, and her doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. McGrath was a postdoctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Pharmacology Department, in Baltimore, MD. In 2006 she became a staff fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA, developing mass spectrometry-based assays for protein toxins ricin and anthrax. McGrath joined the FDA in 2010, researching analytical techniques for characterization and quantitation of gluten proteins in food products. Her current research is focused on development of mass spectrometric methods to detect marine toxins, in support of FDA's regulatory efforts.
»Chemicals, Contaminants and Toxins: Analytical Approaches to Solve Seafood Safety Challenges at the FDA
Seafood is one of the most highly traded commodities in the world. To protect public health, it is vital that domestic and imported seafood is safe, wholesome and properly labeled. The responsibility for safe seafood in the marketplace rests with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA,) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). Through the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA is working to introduce safety standards and practices to prevent contamination of food before it occurs, with standards grounded in food safety research and science. Research efforts at CFSAN towards safe seafood are broad and varied, and encompass issues ranging from analytical methods for detection of bacterial pathogens and chemical contaminants in seafood products to mislabeling of seafood in markets and restaurants.
Some toxins associated with seafood illnesses occur naturally in certain marine organisms, while other toxins are produced by marine algae that accumulate in organisms that feed on the algae. Often marine toxins are not destroyed by heating or cooking, so contaminated seafood products must be identified and removed before reaching the marketplace. FDA is working to develop robust, reliable and sensitive detection methods for toxins so that regulatory guidance levels can be set for harvested seafood. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) has been a vital tool in research efforts at CFSAN to identify and quantify toxins that may be present in fish and shellfish. LC-MS methods being developed to detect Brevetoxin and Tetrodotoxin in fish and shellfish will be used to ensure species native to the Gulf of Mexico are safe to consume.