Finding the right professional food safety partner can be a daunting task. When food production organizations venture out to address issues or needs, many factors can impact the quality of the fit with an outside provider.
Since food testing results and other safety issues can drive costly decisions for manufacturers and consumers alike, the quality of fit between food manufacturers and partners is essential.
At Chestnut Labs, we have thoughtfully reviewed five quality-related questions while creating our own quality system that we feel is conducive to meeting customers’ needs. Perhaps they’ll be helpful for your organization when considering the right outside partner.
1. Is the lab accredited?
Accreditation is important for standards and guidelines in the food safety industry. Chestnut Labs is accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), an independent accreditor that helps ensure quality services and test results for both private and government laboratories.
Through a system of international agreements, A2LA-accredited laboratories receive a Form of International Recognition, which allows their data to be more readily accepted in overseas markets. This recognition helps reduce costs by reducing or eliminating the need for re-testing in the import country, an area that has been much more heavily scrutinized under FSMA.
A2LA laboratory accreditation provides formal recognition to competent laboratories, and serves as a key indicator for customers to find reliable testing and calibration services ready to meet their needs.
2. What quality standard is the lab’s accreditation measured against?
ISO/IEC 17025 is widely used for the evaluation of laboratories throughout the world, and it’s the quality standard to which Chestnut Lab subscribes. Accreditors use the ISO/IEC 17025 standard specifically to assess a laboratory’s ability to produce precise, accurate test results, and to properly calibrate data.
Under A2LA, and measured against ISO, accredited laboratories must undergo onsite assessments every two years to ensure continued compliance and standards of technical expertise.
These laboratories are also required to participate in regular proficiency testing programs to demonstrate competence. These regulations also govern the corrective and preventative actions that are in place in the case of nonconforming work.
3. What Training and Proficiency Measures Are in Place for Laboratory Staff?
At the heart of training and proficiency for any operation is the quality of professionals employed to carry out operations. You’ll want to check out the credentials of biologists and chemists in charge of processing test samples and carrying out evaluations.
There are also measures to ensure that the process of evaluating samples retains its credibility. Chestnut Labs employs several to help validate the testing process:
- Control Samples run with each batch of samples.
- Traceable reference material to ensure measurement accuracy.
- Participation in external proficiency samples to demonstrate technical competency
4. Does the Lab Meet Requirements to Be GFSI Approved?
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a food safety industry-driven effort that provides thought leadership and guidance on the food safety management systems necessary for the food supply chain.
The GFSI helps specify food safety management schemes and outlines procedures in its Guidance Document. The guidelines bring together food safety experts in a global network that results in change through multi-stakeholder projects on strategic issues.
GFSI approval indicates that a lab has been vetted for potential auditors, regulatory affairs, and compliant food safety measures.
5. What Customer Service Approach Does the Lab Take?
Food safety labs do not follow a one-size-fits-all model when it comes to their approaches to scheduling and customer service. You’ll need to consider sampling plans and how weekend hours might impact test results. Some labs do not offer weekend hours for sample drop-off or testing, or they may be closed on certain days throughout the year.
Accessibility, communication methods, confidentiality agreements and procedural compliance are also important customer service issues to evaluate when considering partnership with a food safety lab.
Have more questions about choosing your food safety partner? Contact Chestnut Labs for answers to any of your questions.