Game changing technology at AsureQuality's Auckland laboratory is giving New Zealand's food producers and exporters a vital advantage.
Time is a key element, ensuring they meet stringent quality controls while getting products to overseas consumers as quickly as possible.
At the lab, customers have access to the latest GENE-UP® PCR technology which delivers rapid and accurate results when testing food pathogens in a wide range of everyday food products. This is one of the many tests performed at the lab which help ensure the quality and safety of food consumed by millions of people.
Dr Michael Hodgson, Business Manager at AsureQuality's Auckland Laboratory says the PCR technology is relatively new in the food testing realm and targets a bacteria's DNA.
"The team here spent a long time looking at a technology that would deliver fast test results and reduce false positive results for customers. With one of our largest customers, we undertook a worldwide search of all the technologies before settling on GENE-UP® which we collectively thought would be the best option for our requirements."
That's great news for manufacturers who can now receive test results quickly and take more timely corrective action in their factories (if required) after waiting just one day – instead of up to seven with other testing technologies.
"That speed is critical for products with a short shelf life when the manufacturer is making product every day," says Hodgson.
"If, on Monday, you were making a batch and didn't find you had an issue till three days later, you've got two or three subsequent days of manufacture that may also be under question. That's a much bigger problem for the manufacturer to deal with."
The testing happens deep in West Auckland at Australasia's most sophisticated food and dairy laboratory, one that has become a world leader in test method development and validation.
The facility is open 365 days a year. It's the size of two-and-a-half football fields and conducts up to 10,000 lab tests per day. Inside up to 450 industry experts ensure the food in your supermarket trolley is safe and true-to-label. They also ease the way for exporters who face a fast-moving, global regulatory landscape.
"We know our way round the complex local and international codes, standards and regulations when it comes to food safety and nutrition," says Hodgson. "If you don't get this right, you don't get to export. We remove this as a massive pain-point for Kiwi exporters and let them get on with what they excel at - taking the best of New Zealand to the world."
Whether it's red meat, shellfish, honey or dairy, the lab can provide targeted industry-specific solutions.
While AsureQuality has supported New Zealand companies for over 100 years, its commitment to the latest developments in science, technology and innovation continues to set it apart.
"The Auckland lab was the first in New Zealand to install an automated microbiology system – KIESTRA, installed in 2005 - that automated a lot of our microbiology work and reduced potential for human error," says Hodgson.
"We get testing sent to us from Ireland, Australia and Asia because we can do it faster and cheaper here and our results are trusted more than those of their local labs."
A recent win includes receiving CNAS (China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment) accreditation: "In June last year Auckland became the first food laboratory to receive CNAS accreditation without having a presence in China. That's quite an achievement," says Hodgson.
"We see that as a first step towards Chinese port authorities recognising our certificate of analysis on the inbound goods so the product won't have to undergo another round of testing in China.
"Usually the testing happens while the product sits at the Chinese port. That can cause headaches around the supply chain and the added cost of paying for the product to be tested again in China."
The lab has also been noticed by renowned standards organisations such as the United States-based AOAC International (Association of Official Analytical Chemists) and the International Organisation for Standardisation, both of whom use AsureQuality for various validation studies, in some cases sending samples half way across the globe to leverage their expertise.
The lab has the ability to work with exporters from the inception of a product right through to readying it for the local and export market.
"A brand might be looking for a new functional ingredient and we can work with them to establish what the testing methodology might look like to be able to support that ingredient and the label claim," says Hodgson.
"When we talk about working in partnership with our customers, it's not just rhetoric. We are in this business because we care about our customers and about 'Brand New Zealand'.
"Our commitment is to enable Kiwi food exporters to take the very best of New Zealand to the world. We couldn't be prouder of the role that we play in that."