Keeping the public safe from emergencies or outbreaks involving biological, chemical or radiological contamination of food is all in a day’s work for Donald Burr, who is a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service assigned to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Burr helped design the FDA’s Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), which coordinates the response of food-testing laboratories at the local, state and federal levels following an emergency or outbreak. FERN was formed following the highly publicized anthrax attacks of 2001, and since then Burr has remained involved in the agency’s food defense and counter-terrorism activities. “It’s been gratifying to see the effectiveness of this program when there have been threats to our food supply,” Burr says.
While earning his doctorate at CALS, Burr worked at the UW–Madison Food Research Institute, where he helped develop animal models for infant botulism. After graduating he decided to pursue careers in both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Public Health Service. “That allowed me to continue in the field of public health microbiology while at the same time serving my country,” he says.