So you’ve started the process of becoming GFSI certified. You’ve chosen your platform and taken the training course. Now you are setting up your system and realize that you need to test your product.
GFSI-benchmarked food safety programs, such as BRC, SQF, or Primus GFS, have specific requirements for the testing of finished products or ingredients, to confirm you meet key food safety criteria. One of the primary GFSI testing requirements is to test the product under standards equivalent to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17025. Beyond this primary requirement, companies must also conduct testing frequently enough to assure food safety. With this in mind, let’s look at the topic of ISO 17025 and what food manufacturers should be looking for in a testing laboratory to become and maintain GFSI certification.
Using ISO 17025 to Achieve GFSI Certification
First, we must understand what ISO is. The ISO laboratory standard, more formally known as ISO/IEC 17025:2017 is the current international standard for determining the competency of testing and calibration laboratories. This standard includes those that serve the food industry. The overall ISO quality standard is a broad one that applies to a variety of different types of labs, but there are specific fields that cover certain types of testing. Food analyses typically fall under the chemical and biological fields of testing.
The ISO standard is important because not only is it the recommended laboratory testing standard for GFSI, but it also sets specific and rigorous standards of performance for methods, instruments, and personnel involved in testing. The data generated by an ISO 17025 approved lab is required to be accurate, reproducible, and traceable, with proficiency testing completed regularly. In addition to these requirements, all aspects of laboratory operations must be carefully documented, including test procedures, quality checks, worker training, method validations, calibrations, and measurement traceability.
As with a food safety plan, a system of regular internal audits must be in place, along with a corrective action process to address any deficiencies uncovered and to improve laboratory performance.
Similar to GFSI, obtaining and maintaining ISO 17025 accreditation requires that an outside third party, known as an accreditation body, conducts independent audits of the laboratory and its system to confirm compliance with the ISO standard.
How to Select an ISO accredited laboratory
When selecting a third-party lab to conduct your finished product and ingredient testing, the first step is to confirm that the laboratory has a current ISO 17025 certificate from a recognized accreditation body. For example, the laboratories of Safe Food Alliance are ISO accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA). A search of the A2LA website yields both the certificate and scope of accreditation for our laboratories (A2LA Accreditation).
Confirming that the ISO certification is current, the next step is to click on the Accreditation Scope and Certificate. This database displays the ISO certificate and the specific tests that it covers, known as the scope of the accreditation. It is important to confirm that the tests you need are covered under the scope; the ISO accreditation does not cover all test methods that a laboratory may use. The scope also displays the specific tests conducted at each Safe Food Alliance laboratory location since test methods can vary between sites. Once you have confirmed that the tests you require are on the scope, you are ready to submit samples.
Testing your products through an ISO 17025-accredited laboratory, such as the Safe Food Alliance laboratories in Kingsburg, and Yuba City, California, is an essential step in ensuring that your products meet the highest food safety standards. It also helps to provide a higher level of assurance to your customers and helps your company to meet customer expectations and industry best practices.
If you have questions about laboratory testing or would like to discuss an analysis of your products, contact us today!