The Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) is composed of four components: the FERN Steering Committee, the FERN National Program Office (NPO), FERN Support Programs, and the FERN Regional Coordination Centers (RCC’s). Organizations with representatives on the FERN Steering Committee include state agriculture, environmental, public health, and veterinary diagnostic laboratories as well as federal partners from Health and Human Services (Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control), United States Department of Agriculture (Food Safety and Inspection Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyard Administration), US Customs, Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Homeland Security. The FERN Steering Committee is co-chaired by senior executives from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and HHS’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the day to day operations of FERN are a joint venture between the USDA-FSIS and the FDA.
The operational structure of FERN consists of the National Program Office (NPO) with personnel located in Athens, Georgia and Rockville, Maryland. Additionally, there are Regional Coordination Centers, (RCCs), located in each of the (5) FDA regions across the United States. The FERN has held Regional Coordination Center (RCC) meetings to establish operational and communication guidelines within each FERN region; communicating its objectives, policies and current activities; enhancing collaboration between FERN laboratories within a region, and providing an opportunity for individual regions to tailor response plans to their state policies and regional needs.
The FERN National Program Office coordinates support program activities in the following areas: Method Development and Validation, Training, Proficiency Testing, Surveillance, and Electronic Communication.