People often ask about the role of contract labs and why supplement manufacturers would need to use them. The answer is straight forward: Supplement testing labs play a vital role in testing and independent verification activities. Supplement brand owners should audit any potential contract lab before agreeing to use its services.
An on-site visit builds strong relationships and develops a better understanding of how the lab operates. Being in the lab helps create a better understanding of its sample flow, security, equipment, team members and quality systems, which gives confidence in the results it provides. Without seeing how it operates, it will be difficult to fully understand how it keeps samples organized or how it avoids cross-contamination of the micro lab when plating both probiotic and bacteria-free samples. Ideally, a tour will include a look at the sample entry area, and how the lab organizes orders and uniquely labels samples. This ensures the lab has adequate controls in place to keep sample integrity. A brand can see how the microbiology lab is designed, and how a probiotic testing lab will have a separate plating area with filtered air handling and cleaning procedures for this high-plate count testing. This visit should also allow a brand to review lab procedures and look at proficiency testing data.
Reviewing team member training, out-of-specification (OOS) practices, calibration records and a host of other procedures can be completed during the audit. Being confident in the test results, and knowing the products are safe for consumers, makes the contract lab relationship an important one to invest in. Quality is a big job, and no single lab can manage it alone, so building a team that includes outside partners is critical to success.
This article is an excerpted version of the article “The teamwork between supplement manufacturers and contract labs” in INSIDER’s Contract Labs digital magazine.
Tammy Blakemore is general manager at SORA Labs, a third-party dietary supplement testing lab that specializes in enzyme activity testing and probiotic enumeration.