Amidst growing regulations and interest in ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification, Exact Scientific Services has become one of the few testing laboratories in Washington State that is ISO 17025 certified. “The BRC, and now the recent SQF Code for Product Sampling, Inspection and Analysis, were no small part of our decision to pursue this strenuous process,” says Kent Oostra, CEO and Laboratory Director for Exact Scientific Services, a chemistry and microbiological testing and compliance lab working with food, nutraceutical, environmental and agriculture clients. For instance, SQF Code, Edition 7, 2.5.6 mandates that, “Where external laboratories are utilized to conduct input or product analysis, the laboratories shall be accredited to ISO 17025 or an equivalent national standard.” In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be requiring labs to be accredited to ISO or an equivalent standard if they do detained samples, pending approval. Nutraceutical companies also enter into the ISO discussion in that ISO 17025 certification meets such requirements as CFR 111 FDA for food and dietary supplement manufacturers. Unexpected benefits: internal auditor and customer assurance — at a global level Himself a farmer, Oostra knows the practical implications of these regulations – and how they can impact the bottom line of his clients. So he wanted to do it right on behalf of making life a little easier for his clients, and in being able to share his experience with others along the way. Fortunately, Oostra discovered a silver lining along the way. “We uncovered a number of surprising benefits for our clients through ISO certification,” he says. “Our clients are telling us that ISO provides peace of mind during internal audits, as well as assurances for their customers.” According to Barleans Organic Oils’ Director of Quality Assurance, Mike Kaminski, an Exact client, ISO accreditation “helps us when we have internal audits and they ask us if our lab has certifications. The ISO speaks volumes and helps us a lot.” Client Enfield Farms agrees. According to Quality Assurance Manager Laura Macaulay, “ISO is gaining in importance in our audits. A third-party lab negates the potential for conflict of interest, and an ISO certified lab negates any concerns for testing procedures.” Enfield’s Macaulay points out another benefit, “Our customer base is a huge reason to have third-party ISO certification. Customers are everything in the food industry.” And since ISO is an internationally recognized accreditation by ILAC, ISO accredited laboratory results receive a form of international recognition which allows their data to be more readily accepted. A client working in offices across the globe points out key benefits from internationally recognized accreditation: “We don’t need to get products double tested in different markets to accommodate regional requirements. ISO accreditation also means that we can be assured Exact Scientific’s processes are audited and certified under strict guidelines, which supports our SQF auditing requirements.” This stringent mandate for precise and accurate testing ends up minimizing risk, helps reduce or eliminate the need for retesting, and builds confidence for customers through thorough evaluation of products by an independent and competent testing laboratory. “All of this reduces costs, improves acceptance, and positively impacts the bottom line,” says Oostra. Indeed, ISO 17025 looks at a laboratory’s ability to produce precise and accurate tests. ISO evaluates the technical competence of the staff, validity of test methods, traceability of the testing, quality assurance of data and the testing environment, and suitability, calibration and maintenance of test equipment. And to ensure continued compliance, accredited laboratories are audited on a yearly basis to check that they are maintaining their technical expertise. It was worth it The work has also paid off by providing benefits to Exact itself. “Besides now being one of the few testing laboratories in Washington State, and a relative few nation-wide that is ISO 17025 certified,” Oostra says, “Exact has also became one of few, if not the only, ISO lab in Washington State that is accredited to gluten, proximates, rancidity, and fatty acid profile testing, and that meets USP methods needed by supplement companies.” Looking back on the process, Oostra says it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it in several practical ways: “It has helped streamline our work, organize our flow and serve our clients better, wherever they are located in the world” In the big picture,” Oostra says, “ISO Certification has given one more opportunity of providing our clients and employees with a higher standard of service. In fact, it has been such a benefit, we apply it to all aspects of our own business each and every day.”