If you have a food business in the United States, you must already be aware of the FSMA Act. The full form of FSMA is the Food Safety Modernization Act. It was introduced in the year 2011 when the US government felt that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should have all-encompassing powers to oversee the safety of food items that are being introduced in the market.
What exactly does this Ďmodernizationí of FSMA amount to? This Act granted FDA the power to oversee the manufacturing process of a food item from ďFarm to Fork.Ē Every single process had to be documented so that it could be verified by the FDA. This created the need for extensive data. Unless your business has the data of every single experiment and manufacturing process ready, you risk getting sued or having your products pulled from the market at any point in time.
If the FDA is not satisfied with your product, your product will never see the light of day. But thatís not all. If the customer is not satisfied with your product, you can still end up facing immense problems from the consumer rights board. Nowadays, people can simply take to Twitter to raise a storm against your brand.
It is necessary to ensure that all the experiments are performed precisely and that the data is delivered on time. This raises an important question: can you trust your in-house lab solely for this purpose? Or do you need to hire contract lab services?
So, Contract Lab vs. In-house Testing: which one should you choose?
Most established food businesses have in-house labs already. However, there are plenty of cons to using an in-house lab.
If you are running on a tight schedule and need some tests done immediatelyĖ you cannot ship your samples to the contract lab. In-house testing works the best in those emergencies.
You donít need to perform any thorough checks like you need to do for contract labs.
In-house labs can get expensive. Unless you are performing basic PH level testing, expensive equipment costs a lot. Not just that, thereís a huge associated cost linked to the maintenance of these instruments. You have to remember something- even if you need these instruments only once in three months, you still have to pay for their maintenance all year round.
Niche equipment needs experts trained in niche fields. Buying and maintaining a host of equipment isnít enough. You need people who are adept at using them. So, you either need to hire highly trained staff, which is going to cost you a great deal of money. Or, you have to spend a great deal of money to train the staff that you have already. Either way, itís not worth the effort or the cost.
In-House labs are not trusted by some food safety organizations. Though you may think this is unfair, it is undeniable that in-house labs cannot produce impartial results. After all, the aim is clear from the beginning, and all lab personnel works to achieve that particular end goal. Thus, small discrepancies that can make or break it are either ignored or smoothened out.
These are labs that you can pay on a contractual basis to get your tests done. Letís look at why you should or should not hire contract labs.
Contract labs are way more cost-effective because you neither need to maintain the sophisticated instruments nor the trained staff for a long period.
If you opt for contract lab services, you can get some rare and niche experiments conducted that you canít at your in-house lab. Also, the staff there has considerable experience in conducting those niche experiments for several other food businesses like yours.
Contract labs ensure that the results obtained are impartial, whether you like them or not. They have no reason to risk their reputation by lying on your behalf, so they are more trustworthy in the eyes of the FDA.
Reliable contract labs are not easy to find. You have to perform some thorough verification to ensure that the contract lab services you are hiring are worth the money. Also, you need to make sure that their accreditations are legitimate.
Itís often difficult to ship samples to faraway contract labs. You need to make sure that the contract lab service that you are choosing has the facility to ensure the safety and non-contamination of your samples.
When you are in a time crunch, you cannot rely on contract labs. After all, they cannot quicken their procedures just for your benefit.
So, which one should you choose? The right answer seems to be a combination of both. As you must have understood from this article, both in-house labs and contract labs have their weaknesses and strengths. You cannot rely on any one of these to serve all your needs. So, for the complicated tests, do opt for the contract labs. But for the simple non-time consuming ones the in-house lab should suffice.