The purpose of testing programs is to plan which laboratory analyses will be applied in an operation to validate that the control measures implemented are effective.
An important point to consider is to know who is requesting the laboratory results and what they are requesting; that is, we have to know the criteria requested by each certification that the company has (Primus GFS, GlobalGAP, to name a few), what the legislation of the country of origin and destination of the agricultural products requires (in Mexico SENASICA or the U.S. the FDA). What are the needs of our customers (e.g., distributors or supermarket chains), and very importantly, what does our risk assessment show (history of outbreaks in the sector or in the product being processed, rejections by pesticide molecules or any other undesirable situation that could reasonably occur in the process)?
Some criteria to consider from the microbiological point of view could be parameters associated with risks in the industry, for example, total coliforms, fecal coliforms, e. coli (generic or O157:H7), Salmonella, listeria (spp or monocytogenes); and these should be analyzed in a general to a particular way.
The next step is to identify the areas where the analyses are going to be performed, for example, irrigation water, general use water, purified water, wastewater, fruits, living and inert substrates, organic fertilizer, soil, and air; and which would be the sampling points (for example, in purified water it could be in the thermos where the water is served or the inert surface “banks” could be performed after applying the cleaning procedure).
Based on all the information gathered, the sampling should be scheduled, the number of samples, and even which laboratory will collect the samples and perform the analysis.
To choose the laboratory, it must be ensured that it is properly accredited under the criteria of the current ISO 17025 standard or its equivalent, verified by a current accreditation document; in addition, the parameter to be analyzed must be included in its scope of accreditation to be considered valid. There is no generic testing program for all agricultural companies, since, as explained, it will depend on the context in which the operation is located, however, it is important to consider all the factors mentioned to strengthen our program and thus be sure that we are performing timely validations of the processes.
Por: Edgar Saúl Ramírez Guerrero – Coordinador de Auditoría Interna Veggies From Mexico