Working with Testing Labs 101

It’s time for a lesson from Elan Sudberg, the CEO of Alkemist Labs

Elan Sudberg, CEO

December 21, 2015

3 Min Read
Working with Testing Labs 101

There is an old aphorism, some version of which applies for nearly every industry one can imagine: “You can have good, cheap, or fast—but you can only choose two.” In the project management field it’s called the Iron Triangle, which is made up of Scope, Cost, and Schedule and, again, you can only choose two. The concept goes back to 1969 and was coined by Dr. Martin Barnes (UK) in a course he developed called ‘Time and Money in Contract Control.” However, the conundrum of choosing only two of good, cheap and/or fast goes back millennia.

In the testing lab business we have our own version: Quality, Turnaround Time, and/or Price. For our customers, we make it simple by removing the option to skimp on quality. You just have to choose how fast you want it, which generally dictates how much you will pay.

To offer only high-quality lab services while maintaining a decent turnaround time, it is critical that the right data are known about the test sample and test requested from the very beginning. Our customers are trying to stay compliant with the cGMPs by measuring or identifying ingredients to confirm that they are whatever it is that is on their label before it goes into the bottle. In some cases, it’s being tested after it’s in the bottle. In order to get their samples analyzed to produce accurate and meaningful data, there are specific items on a Sample Submission Form (SSF) that require special attention to make sure the testing is done correctly and accurately. It saves time and money to get this right.

Items such as:

  • The correct analyte to be measured or the correct Latin name of the botanical to be identified.

  • If there are any special extraction conditions that were used to prepare the test sample and, if so, what they are?

  • Is the substance pure or are there other substances mixed in with the substance of interest and what are they?

  • Is there a specification that you are trying to meet or is this a research-only test, etc.? 

This is where a little understanding can go a long way.

There are many other questions that could be answered, but if, at a minimum, these few items are addressed, this should provide the lab with the minimum information necessary to analyze the test material correctly, the first time. On the other hand, if these questions are not all answered or are incorrectly answered, then we have multiple scenarios that could evolve. Down that path lies ruin and despair. Not really, but it’s best not to go there if you can avoid it.

With this in mind, take care to fill out all SSFs accurately and with all, or as much, information as is available for the test that is being requested. That way the applicability of the method applied to the test material is appropriate and fit for the purpose intended, which can facilitate accuracy in testing, thus saving you time and money.

About the Author(s)

Elan Sudberg

CEO, Alkemist Labs

Élan M. Sudberg is CEO of Alkemist Labs, a passionately committed contract testing laboratory specializing in plant and fungal identity, potency and purity testing for the food, beverage, nutraceutical and psychedelic industries. His favorite part of his job is catching cheaters, and he is known for pushing the industry to continually raise the bar on quality and transparency. Élan holds a degree in chemistry from California State University Long Beach, and he is on the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) board of trustees.

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