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FSMA & Lab Accreditation: Tipping Point for Food Safety Testing Labs?

Will FSMA and the push for accreditation of food safety testing laboratories be the tipping point in moving analysis of food samples from food plant labs to contract testing labs?

Food safety is constantly in the news, especially in the U.S. Food recalls happen with too much frequency, and when they do, they grab front-page headlines. The underlying concern is that the food we eat each day isn’t as safe as it could be. Given this fear, food production, food service and food retail companies and government regulators have increased efforts to ensure food safety, which translates into increased food safety testing.

In fact, the global market for food safety testing has grown roughly 5-10% annually, with growth in some geographic regions and testing areas (North America and pathogen testing, for example) at even higher rates. Strategic Consulting has documented this growth in food safety testing over the last 15 years in 18 market research reports.

Food Safety Test Analysis in Food Plant Labs

Until about 30 years ago, food safety testing was conducted in laboratories based at the food processing plant. Food samples collected from raw materials, the production environment or final products were taken to the food plant lab (FPL) to be analyzed. SCI research estimates that there are approximately 40,000 food plants worldwide with 25 or greater employees and, at one point, all of them had FPLs.

food safety testing, pathogen analysis, food industry labToday’s food safety tests and analysis are more complex. Test instruments are more expensive, operator training needs have increased, and documentation requirements are more extensive and involved. In addition, some food companies have restricted the types of tests (e.g. pathogen tests) that can be analyzed in the plant, further impacting the value of in-plant labs. All in all, running a FPL and generating quality data has gotten tougher.

 

food industry, food safety testing, micro labAs a result, food plants are debating whether to conduct food safety test analysis themselves, or to send the analysis outside to corporate labs or independent food contract labs (FCLs). As of 2013, SCI research found that just 86% of food plants still run FPLs.

In response to the public’s growing concerns about food safety, there have been a number of regulatory and food industry initiatives in recent years. In the U.S., the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 and implementation is ongoing. Industry alliances like the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and the Food Laboratory Alliance also have emerged. A common goal of many of these initiatives to regain consumer confidence is the accreditation of food safety testing labs, to ensure that accurate and consistent data is being used to assess food plant safety.

Accreditation of Food Safety Testing Laboratories

Currently, most FPLs are not accredited. Recent SCI research found that just 18% of QA/QC managers said their food plant labs were accredited, and other sources have reported this percentage even lower.

food industry, food safety testing lab, accreditation

Lab accreditation is not trivial, and brings added responsibilities and costs. A sizable initial investment is usually required in order to put systems in place and provide proper training for staff. The review fee for accreditation can run $15,000 or more and, once accredited, labs can expect additional ongoing costs for staffing, management and overall compliance.

Merriam-Webster defines the “tipping point” as the critical point in a situation, process or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place. Will the drive for lab accreditation be the tipping point for food plant labs, the point at which the bulk of analysis of food samples moves outside the plant to corporate labs or contract testing labs? We think so.

In our conversations with food plant QA/QC managers and executives, we hear more and more questioning whether running a food plant lab is part of the plant’s core competencies. Are they truly adding value by having a FPL or are they just adding costs and complexities?

Food plants can get fast, quality test results from corporate labs or from increasingly sophisticated (and competitive) food contract testing laboratories. Some FCL companies are even willing to locate food safety testing services in a trailer right at the food plant, or to come in and operate the food plant’s lab outright. Additionally, more and more food company customers, including global food retail and food service companies, are requesting analytical results provided by an accredited third-party lab rather than the food plant itself.

Data from our new report, Food Contract Lab Report (FCLR), indicate that things have tipped, and that the food contract lab market is growing faster than the food safety testing market on the whole. Clearly FCLs are taking market share.

In our next post: Growth in the independent food contract laboratory market

 

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5 Food Safety Testing Trends Expected for 2014

Food safety testing is changing dramatically, and new research from Strategic Consulting, Inc. projects 5 emerging trends for 2014.

Two new reports from Strategic Consulting, Inc. (SCI), a management consulting firm focused on food safety and industrial diagnostics, point to five major trends for 2014 in the global food microbiology testing market. SCI’s food microbiology research reports are based on extensive interviews with QA/QC managers in food processing facilities around the world, and one-on-one discussions with food safety experts from academia, government and industry, as well as diagnostic test manufacturers.

With public concern about food safety growing, and the increasing globalization of the food supply chain, it is a critical and challenging time in the food microbiology diagnostics business. There are a number of dynamics at play that present both opportunities and minefields for players in this field. As in any market, those well informed and positioned will benefit.

Data from two new reports, Food Micro, Eighth Edition: Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry and Food Contract Lab Report (FCLR) point to five major trends for 2014: read more…

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Food Safety Testing Shifts to 3rd Party Contract Testing Labs

A new report from Strategic Consulting, Inc. details the growing trend in food companies to send quality and safety testing offsite to third party contract testing laboratories. The volume of food testing conducted at contract labs is growing at a faster rate than the total food testing market, and is expected to continue to do so over the next five years.

Food companies around the world increasingly rely on 3rd party contract testing laboratories for their food quality and safety testing. In 2013, worldwide revenue for food contract testing labs will exceed $3 billion, with a compound annual growth rate of 9.4%. SCI’s Food Contract Lab Report (FCLR) is the first report to examine this market segment in detail, and reviews test volumes, revenues and emerging trends in quality and safety testing conducted by third party laboratories for food companies around the world.

With the volume of food testing conducted at contract labs growing at a faster rate than the food testing market as a whole, this trend has implications for both food companies and diagnostic test manufacturers. read more…

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Global Food Contract Testing Lab Revenues Exceed $3 Billion in 2013

Strategic Consulting is pleased to announce our first report reviewing the test volumes, revenues and trends for quality and safety testing services conducted by third party laboratories for food producers around the world.

For some time now, Strategic Consulting has been following the increasing trend at food production companies around the world to send food quality and safety testing to third party contract testing laboratories. This year in fact, total revenues for food contract test labs are estimated to reach $3.05 billion, up from $1.95 billion just five years ago, at a healthy compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4% worldwide.

contract testing lab, food safety testing, Food Contract Lab Report

read more…

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Food Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry

As the global food chain grows more complex, food microbiology testing is increasing worldwide. An authoritative new market research report from Strategic Consulting details worldwide food microbiology testing.

Food microbiology testing varies extensively around the world. Diagnostic testing by food producers differs by geographic region, by the predominant organisms tested (Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter, for example), and by the type of food product produced (meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, or processed food). Technical differences in global testing practices also exist, such as the point in the food production chain at which samples are collected, and the test methods used for analysis.

The following data and charts from Food Micro, Eighth Edition: Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry (Food Micro—8) are drawn from in-depth interviews with quality and safety managers in food plants around the world. More than 450 food production facilities in 19 countries were surveyed, with more than 140 interviews conducted in Asia—in China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Many of the Asian surveys were conducted in face-to-face interviews in the native language, in order to provide insights into food testing practices that to date have been difficult to gather. read more…

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Tweeting About Food Safety

I’ve been using Twitter for close to two years now. For me, tweeting about food safety has been a natural addition to a process that I have followed for my 30+ years in food safety and industrial diagnostics—tracking on the latest food safety news, issues, regulations, technologies, etc.

Staying current in the field of food safety diagnostics is a passion of mine. It also makes good business sense given that many of my clients are industrial diagnostics companies.

So it was great to be acknowledged in a recent blog post on the Sample6 website, 15 Best Food Safety Twitter Accounts. And to be counted in among some of the best blogs addressing the myriad of issues related to food safety.

My specific area of focus relates to food safety trends and drivers—changes in regulations, food chain practices, public perceptions, etc. that will impact food safety testing in the global food industry. read more…

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Food Microbiology Market Increases 40% in 5 Years to Reach $2.9 Billion in 2013

The food microbiology testing market is healthy and robust, driven by an increasingly global food supply and focus on safe food. Strategic Consulting, Inc. projects the market value of food microbiology testing worldwide to reach $2.9 billion in 2013—an increase of 40%, or $832 million, in the past five years.

A new publication from Strategic Consulting, Inc., Food Micro, Eighth Edition: Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry puts the 2013 market value of worldwide microbiology testing for food safety at $2.9 billion. The market value for food micro testing has increased 40%, or $832 million, in the past five years.

In total, the global food industry will conduct 966.5 million microbiology tests this year to ensure the safety of food products and detect dangerous pathogens in food. read more…

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Many “Niches” in the Global Food Microbiology Testing Market

Due out this month, Food Micro, Eighth Edition: Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry (Food Micro-8) explores differences in testing by region, food segment, organisms and company structures.

Microbiology testing by food companies around the world is on the rise. Increases are occurring in all geographic regions and across all food segments. The total volume of food microbiology testing worldwide is approaching 1 billion tests annually—an increase of about 125% since 1998.
Routine and Pathogen Food Microbiology Tests Worldwide

Numerous factors are driving the increase in food microbiology testing: read more…

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8 Things to Know about Bacterial Outbreaks from the Recent CDC Report on Foodborne Outbreaks and Illness

I’ve spent some time analyzing the recent data released by the CDC on foodborne disease outbreaks and illnesses for the period 1998-2010. My basic conclusion from a review of the numbers is that our food supply seems to be safer than the broad estimates provided by the CDC and, as a result, reported by the news media and assumed by the general public.

I discuss some of the broad numbers in my latest blog for Food Safety Magazine, but drill down specifically into foodborne bacterial outbreaks in this blog. read more…

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Food Safety—Is It As Bad As Reported?

Marked by major food recalls, stalled regulations, a continued decline in public confidence and ever-present media coverage, 2012 won’t be remembered as a banner year for food safety.

But, what is the truth about the safety of our food? Is it as bad as reported? read more…

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