On an island off the northeastern tip of Long Island, N.Y., U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are doing their part to safeguard the U.S. food supply.

At the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a USDA research team works to ensure that we’re prepared to protect ourselves against exotic animal diseases that threaten livestock production in the United States and around the world. The center, now operated by the Department of Homeland Security, offers a safe and secure site for developing vaccines, diagnostic tests and other technology to help prevent animal disease outbreaks, and to respond to outbreaks that might occur.

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at Plum Island investigate infectious diseases such as classical swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). Recently, they renewed efforts to help combat African swine fever, a deadly pig disease that’s invading other countries.

When research began on Plum Island nearly 60 years ago, the main focus was to detect and prevent FMD, which only affects cloven (or divided) hoofed animals such as cattle, swine, goats and sheep. Considered the most economically devastating livestock disease in the world, FMD was eradicated from the United States in 1929, but it remains in other countries and is spreading. While FMD is a serious animal disease, it is not a food safety or public health threat. And even though FMD is not a public health threat or a food safety concern, USDA remains focused on ensuring the disease does not reach our shores so that our Nation continues to provide consumers worldwide with an affordable and steady meat and milk supply.