Lab Error Triggers Product Recall


There’s a third-party contract lab located somewhere in Canada that needs to review its Good Laboratory Practices and lab sanitation protocols.

On October 5, 2011, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), in conjunction with Foodfest International 2000 Inc., warned the Ontario public that Strubs ready-to-eat Danish Style Smoked Grav-Lox Atlantic Salmon (Lot code 09262011) should not be consumed.

The Grav-Lox, according to CFIA, might be contaminated with SalmonellaFoodfest International 2000 Inc. (the distributor) recalled the offending product.

That was one month ago.

Today, CFIA rescinded its Health Hazard Alert, and advised the public that the Strubs Grav-Lox did NOT present a health risk from Salmonella.

Why the reversal? Because, according to CFIA, the lab responsible for reporting the initial Salmonella-positive result found that “...the Salmonella positive result was in fact a false positive, attributed to laboratory cross contamination.

Now, I’ve worked in – and managed – several microbiology labs in my professional life. And I’m here to tell you that the LAST thing that should happen in a professionally run lab – whether government, in-house company, or third-party lab – is laboratory cross contamination.

Aseptic technique and assiduous attention to proper lab sanitation procedures are fundamental to the production of dependable lab results. So is the routine use of positive control and negative control sample analysis.

The company for whom the third-party lab did its analyses should have three questions for the lab’s management:

  • How did the lab cross-contamination happen?
  • Why did it take a full month for the cross-contamination to be discovered?
  • How will the lab change its procedures to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again?

I don’t know who hired the third-party lab; it could have been either Strubs or Foodfest (CFIA maintains its own labs). But, if I was the one who hired that hapless excuse for a professional lab, I’d be looking for a replacement, ASAP.

5 thoughts on “Lab Error Triggers Product Recall

  1. Phyllis, I agree with you that blind samples serve the same purpose (if a long term relationship exists); however, if analysts had to disclose their check sample or performance record they would also feel the need to protect their professional ability. Up here we have had many serious failures in medical diagnostic testing or interpretation of tests (one going on now ). If analysts had to reveal their performance record that might be reduced – I say reduced because mandatory disclosure of hospital infections does not appear to significantly reduce that problem. I find it strange that a political survey must make a statement about the likely probability and yet analysts don’t have to do that. I probably still have a collection of disclaimers that were used by consulting labs back when I was still in industry – I often wondered why we were paying them. I also understand that they must protect themselves especially if they did not take the sample; but too often the disclaimer rendered the analytical results essentially meaningles as being in any way representative of the product that was sampled.

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  2. Well Phyllis, this is another example why analyst performance data should accompany analytical results. This is particularly important when we talk about consulting laboratories. When I was still working in industry many years ago I became aware of difficulties with consulting laboratories. To put it another way, if I work in a company laboratory I get to know the idiosycracies of a product and analyze many samples of that product. If I work in a contract laboratory or regulatory laboratory I may do a few samples of this product and then another product and this can result in problems. So my bottom line is that I want to see at least 3 cheque sample results of the analyst who did my samples!

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    1. Bill, check samples are to a lab what finished product testing is to a food processor – an indicator of egregious problems. Lab analysis know when they are handing check samples and take assiduous care to handle them correctly. In my opinion, anyone using a contract (3rd party) lab should submit occasional blind “check samples” that are indistinguishable in appearance from the Real McCoy. Only then can the lab’s customer get an idea of how well that lab handles routine samples.

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