As FSMA promises to increase the responsibility of food laboratories, companies must pave a path forward by working more closely with industry as a whole, government and non-government organizations, as well as with each other. This was the clear message relayed by Pamela Wilger , assistant director of global food safety at Cargill, at IAFP 2015.
“We consider a lab any person generating data,” said Wilger, who emphasized the “lab” is not just the room itself. Lab testing should not focus on a single narrow view (i.e., one test); companies should be efficiently applying their resources, considering both science and risk. “Non-science based testing can lead to conflicts between suppliers and customers and manufacturers and regulators, and destruction of wholesome product.”
Here’s where improvement is needed in food labs:
- Disseminating best practices. “We don’t even share that [as an industry],” said Wilger. “We don’t have time to replicate the same work.”
- Aligning international rules
- Cooperating with national regulators, including local/regional entities.
- Testing and improving compliance policies
- Building consumer trust and confidence
- Training/competency development. Finding the right people, and encouraging employee knowledge sharing
- Being prepared for the next intentional economic adulteration
Palmer Orlandi, Ph.D., CAPT, U.S. Public Health Service Sr. Science Advisor in the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine at FDA, shared insights on how FSMA will affect lab responsibilities moving forward, with a focus on prevention versus reaction. The objective for lab capacity programs is to facilitate submission and acceptance of meaningful and actionable data to all regulatory agencies, he said.
- Reset, expand and integrate: A need to focus on resources
- Method performance and “fit for purpose”, harmonized standards
- Large-scale focused surveillance activities; statistical significance, real-time evaluation of data generated
- Real-time communications, bioinformatics, IT infrastructure, data-sharing platforms
- Technology and innovation partnerships, including on an international basis