Survey participants were asked what percentage of their laboratory staff is certified as food scientists or technologists. Certification of food scientists and technologists is offered as a credential from a limited number of professional societies and trade associations.
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For onsite laboratories, nearly a third of survey participants stated that none of their laboratory staff are certified, another third indicated that about 20 percent of their staff are certified, and about 20 percent of respondents stated that they did not know if their laboratory personnel are certified. For contract laboratories, 90 percent of survey participants did not know if their laboratory staff are certified.
When asked to select each of the standards or processes their laboratory follows, participating laboratory leaders had a range of responses. All respondents (100 percent) follow AOAC, and 72 percent use the BAM (Bacteriological Analytical Manual). Between 30 to 50 percent of survey respondents use Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (44 percent), ISO 17025 (44 percent), Global Food Safety Initiative-recognized schemes (36 percent), Standard Methods Dairy (40 percent), and/or Standard Methods Water (40 percent). A handful of respondents indicated the use of Codex Standards (12 percent), ISO 11133 (4 percent), or ISO (other) (4 percent). Four percent indicated that they did not know which standards or processes are followed by their laboratory, and 16 percent noted “other” standards or processes, not listed.
A section of the law calls for the recognition of laboratory accreditation and the development of model laboratory standards, all of which may set a new benchmark that all food laboratories must strive to meet.
Fifteen percent, or 28, of the laboratory leaders contacted responded to the survey. No two respondents are from the same laboratory. The aggregate results provide a glimpse into the level and knowledge of laboratory standards currently employed by food laboratories.
Among the overall results, it is notable that over 60 percent of respondents utilize both onsite and contract laboratories for what appears to be a wide range of testing needs.
Although more than three-quarters of these laboratory professionals state that laboratory accreditation to an internationally-recognized standard is important to them, only 42 percent of onsite laboratories are reported as accredited. In contrast, 90 percent of the respondents’ contract laboratories are reported as accredited.
Among respondents using onsite laboratories, 81 percent stated that their laboratory uses quality control materials, and 85 percent reported using a proficiency testing program.
There is some uncertainty reported among respondents on the practices of contract laboratories. Twenty-nine percent were unsure if their contract laboratory used quality control materials, and almost half reported uncertainty as to if their contract laboratory participated in proficiency testing. Ninety percent of survey participants did not know if contract laboratory staff were certified.
Stombler is president of Auburn Health Strategies, LLC in Arlington, Va. Reach her at Rstombler@auburnstrat.com.
AUTHOR NOTES: Percentages presented in this report are rounded to the nearest whole number. This survey was made possible by Microbiologics and was produced by Auburn Health Strategies.