Beginning about six years ago, the North Carolina Food & Drug Testing Lab began working on ISO accreditation. Last year, they achieved that task. Audrey Pilkington, NCDA & CS, Food & Drug Protection Division, assistant director of lab operations explains what it took to get that accreditation, and what having it means for the state:
Pilkington: “It’s been hard work for those years, a lot of dedication from employees who have had to do a lot of changes, and sometimes change doesn’t come easy. But, a lot of documents to revise, and extensive amount of training. But, what I think the employees have recognized out of it, it really is a benefit for them, and if they have very clear-cut guidelines on what they have to do it’s very well documented, and we’re committed to training them better, then it gives them advantages in their professional career also.”
SFN: Now, what does this ISO accreditation mean, for this lab, and for the state of North Carolina?
Pilkington: “We are one of 10 state agriculture labs that have this accreditation, and we’re accredited in two scopes; chemical testing and biological testing. What it does is bring a recognition to our laboratory that we’re competent for the type of testing that we do. That competency then will bring a level of assurance to our customers, whether they are within our own division, within the state or federal government that our data is accurate, traceable, and defensible. Then they can have a comfort level for using that data for penalizing companies that are not producing what they say they’re producing, embargoing product if it happens to be contaminated, or of danger to persons to consume it. Our data has gone all the way to court for litigation. So, what we hope is that we’re providing data to our customers, data that they are more assured that they can take action on.”
SFN: Now, recently you received an award, let’s talk about that a little bit:
Pilkington: “The Governor’s Award? Yeah, we’re very pleased. Every year there are awards given to outstanding work in the state, we were recently chosen to receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence and that is for our entire laboratory. Just another level of recognition that I’m very proud that’s been brought to this group of hard working microbiologists and chemists in our laboratory, and we’re very excited for everybody whose been recognized.”
The NCDA received the Elliot O. Grosvenor Food Safety Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by food safety programs within state departments of agriculture, natural resources, public health or environmental health. Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler accepted the award during the Seventh Annual Food Safety Forum. NCDA is the first recipient of the new food safety award presented by the Association of Food and Drug Officials.