Brands are responsible for ensuring their products meet regulatory requirements for safety, identity, purity, strength and composition. Critical to achieving regulatory compliance—and to ensuring products meet consumer expectations of quality and efficacy—is testing. Many brand owners partner with contract laboratories that have the expertise and capabilities to perform the tests necessary to ensure product quality and meet regulations. But forming the right testing lab partnerships requires careful consideration of critical category dynamics:
- Testing is complex. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to testing a product and its ingredients. Testing needs to be conducted at various stages of product development, including when ingredients are received from a supplier, during the manufacturing process, before and after a final product is packaged and every time a new batch is released. Additionally, not all testing labs specialize in every test needed for a particular product. In many cases, a product may require testing from different labs and thus, brands must put together a testing team.
- Choose wisely. Lead times and costs are often top of mind for brand owners looking to partner with a contract lab. However, there’s more to consider, including what materials need to be tested and what methods the lab specializes in. Vetting potential testing partners is critical; key considerations when qualifying a potential testing partner include method validation or certification under the scope of ISO 17025 audits, transparency of methods and results, and a defined process for dealing with out-of-specification (OOS) results. Audits are a valuable tool brands can use when qualifying a testing partner.
- Foods matter, too. Safety can’t be overlooked when it comes to any health product, including foods. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provides regulatory framework for food products aimed at preventing foodborne illness. Also supporting food safety are voluntary standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) aimed to help industry ensure food safety and prevent food safety hazards. Contract labs can help brand owners meet and maintain these various standards and regulations.
In the coming year, it’s possible testing could become the next wave of transparency. “One of the last bastions of opacity is who conducts the testing,” wrote Elan Sudberg, CEO of Alkemist Labs. His company is working to revamp its certificate of analysis (CoA) to make it easily translatable for consumers. “This should—and will—become a standard industry practice,” he wrote.
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