Preparing for FSMA Implementation: Babcock Labs Expands Food Testing Services

There are seven major Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules to be finalized by the end of 2015, according to the White House’s “Current Regulatory Plan and the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions”.

Among the seven are rules regarding preventative controls for human and animal food, rules for produce safety, rules for sanitary transportation and intentional adulteration, and rules for third-party accreditation. Although FSMA has seen delays thus far, deadlines for these seven rules have been court mandated to begin in 2015, with the publication of the first final rule anticipated for late summer.

Other rules in the pipeline include food labeling (i.e. gluten-free and labeling of fermented, hydrolyzed, or distilled foods) and control of Listeria Monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is planning a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for midsummer regarding new requirements for contamination control in cattle slaughter operations. According to Food Safety News, “the agency is proposing to amend its regulations to require that all establishments that slaughter cattle (including calves) develop, implement and maintain written procedures to prevent contamination of carcasses and parts by enteric pathogens (e.g., Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli) and fecal material throughout the entire slaughter and dressing operation”. Food Safety News also explained that the, “FDA is proposing various revisions to the microbial standard for water that is directly applied during the growing of produce (other than sprouts). The agency is updating the microbial quality standard to reflect data that supports the 2012 Environmental Protection Agency recreational water quality criteria”.

Currently, Babcock Labs can provide food testing services that will be required under many of the new FSMA rules and food safety legislation. These analyses include aerobic plate count (also known as standard plate count or total viable count), yeast and mold, pathogens such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Listeria Species (Monocytogenes), organisms such as Staphylococcus aureas, Enterobacteriaceae, lactic acid bacteria, total coliform, shelf life testing, and Proposition 65 metals. More recently, however, the lab has brought online new methodologies to expand its food testing services to meet even more proposed FSMA rules. These new analyses include allergen testing (i.e. egg, milk, gluten, shell fish, peanut, almond, melamine, bovine material, etc.) as well as swab and sponge environmental sampling, challenge testing, organoleptic testing, and alcohol content testing.    

“We know that the implementation of these regulations will mean big changes for our food clients,” said Paul Monroy, Laboratory Director for Babcock Labs. “Fortunately, Babcock Labs has been ISO 17025 accredited through A2LA for years, so we already provide a lot of the testing that will be mandated through FSMA. These newer testing methodologies we are bringing online are yet another proactive step we are taking to make sure that our clients don’t face any extra roadblocks as new FSMA regulations come down the pipeline.”

ISO 17025 accreditation is significant, as the FDA will be requiring food laboratory accreditation in the near future.

“We’ve been providing environmental testing services for over 100 years, so we are well-versed in obtaining the proper certifications and accreditations necessary to provide analytical testing services that meet regulatory requirements,” explained Monroy.

With these new analyses also comes better technology. New instrumentation purchases, such as that of a qPCR, are aiding in the process of increasing the lab’s scope of food testing services.

“The qPCR is a great addition to the lab,” said Monroy. “This instrument provides superior technology that will translate to faster turn-around-times (TATs) and lower cost for our clients.”

Even with the substantial expansion of the lab’s food testing, Monroy warns that Babcock Labs isn’t finished growing.

“We are also in the process of bringing online the testing services necessary for food labeling,” explained Monroy. “With the finalization of FSMA rules such as those for food labeling and preventative controls for human food, we anticipate that our clients will benefit greatly from Babcock Labs’ newly added services.”

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