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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Faces of Food Safety: Louis Bluhm - Administrative Position Offers Options Beyond the Lab

Louis Bluhm, Ph.D.Louis Bluhm, Ph.D., is the lead chemist on the Laboratory Quality Assurance Staff (LQAS), part of the Office of Public Health Science (OPHS), and administrator of the FSIS Accredited Laboratory Program located in Athens, Ga. OPHS provides FSIS leadership with the necessary scientific analysis, advice, data and recommendations regarding matters of concern to FSIS. The three FSIS laboratories complete thousands of meat and poultry analyses annually for veterinary drugs, heavy metals, and pesticides. As a lead chemist for LQAS, Bluhm works with a team of chemistry staff officers who are responsible for quality assurance of chemistry-related activities in all three FSIS laboratories. “There is no reason to run a test if the method used to produce the result doesn’t function correctly,” Bluhm said. “So, I strive to make sure that the chemistry methods that the labs use are fit for the intended purpose.”

As administrator of the FSIS Accredited Laboratory Program, which certifies private chemistry testing laboratories, Bluhm works with staff who ensure that private labs can perform the analysis for which they are accredited, provide proficiency testing samples and analyze results. Presently, about 50 private laboratories participate in the program. His work also helps the Agency’s lab system maintain its International Organization for Standardization accreditation, adding trust and recognition to the results the labs produce. “All food safety laboratory testing, whether done by FSIS or by private labs, impacts public health,” Bluhm said. “My job provides assurance that this testing is done properly.”

"All food safety laboratory testing, whether done by FSIS or by private labs, impacts public health. My job provides assurance that this testing is done properly."

Louis Bluhm, Ph.D.

While pursuing his undergraduate degree at Mississippi State University, Bluhm toured a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service laboratory in Gulfport, Mississippi, where his father-in-law was employed. That visit had a profound impact on him. He saw analysts checking fruits and vegetables for pesticides and quickly took a liking to the federal laboratory environment. After earning his doctorate in analytical chemistry at Vanderbilt University, he accepted a lab job with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, analyzing foods for dioxins at the agency’s Arkansas Regional Laboratory just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Bluhm came to FSIS in the summer of 2005, as a chemistry staff officer. “I came to FSIS for a new challenge,” he said. “I may no longer be in the lab running samples, but I still have a strong connection with the lab environment. For me, meaningful work helps the common good. So to work in a place where science combines with protecting the public is very special.” Bluhm enjoys the variety of activities involved in his job. “Sometimes I conduct an onsite audit of a lab, other times I review a method or article for publication. Still other times I may travel to a conference to share information about the labs. I also like that the work requires problem-solving, providing guidance and a lot of thinking,” he said.

Bluhm’s off-work hours tend to revolve around his kids’ activities. His children train and compete in swim meets throughout the year. Recently, they competed in a local piano festival and earned superior marks. Bluhm also likes to ‘tinker’ in his workshop. He considers himself an amateur electrician. His biggest success involved wiring his entire workshop. When time allows, Bluhm grows vegetables in his garden. This summer its tomatoes, planted in fertilized hay bales instead of the ground, are doing much better than expected.

 

Last Modified Oct 18, 2016