How FDA ‘Triers’ and Food Sampling Have Prevented Tragedy

By: Suzanne Junod, Ph.D.

Suzanne Junod holding a grain trier

Suzanne Junod, Ph.D., holding two grain triers.

Throughout history, one of the most important tools used by FDA inspectors to protect the food supply is also one of the simplest – a trier – which allows an inspector to collect a representative sample of a product.

Triers vary in design, depending on the product being sampled. But this straightforward, efficient tool makes it possible for FDA inspectors to quickly gather samples to test for contamination and other signs of adulteration. For decades, triers have prevented potential tragedies involving grains, cheese, frozen eggs, olives, and many other products. During the 1950s, for instance, many consumers were unknowingly put at risk by the smallest of food products – the seeds used by many American farmers to grow wheat. The public health threat stemmed from the fact that some farmers used mercury-treated seeds to grow their wheat, and a number of these seeds found their way into the food supply. Thanks to the sharp eyes of FDA inspectors, this threat was removed.

We hope you enjoy your visit to the FDA History Vault.

Suzanne Junod, Ph.D., is an FDA Historian.

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