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If you have heard of ISO 17025, you either work in a food testing laboratory or send samples to a food testing laboratory. Clients in the food industry have asked me, is ISO 17025 a requirement? There is no simple answer. For example, state labs are now going through the process of getting accredited to ISO 17025 as a requirement by the federal government. Let’s work through the other answers to the question.

Why is International Organization for Standardization abbreviated as ISO?
As a microbiologist, we have an acronym for everything, so I was curious about the meaning of ISO. International Organization for Standardization is what I learned as the full name of ISO in English, and I confirmed this on the ISO website. ISO is an international organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, so I used to believe the original name was in French, but now I believe that is wrong. In 1946 when the first delegates met in London, they met to discuss International Standards, i.e. IS. I read in a history of ISO there may have been the use of iso from Greek meaning “equal.” Today, most of the use is with ISO without the complete spelling of the full term, with scientists just understanding what ISO is and does. ISO has 162 countries represented in membership and has published over 22,000 voluntary International Standards.

Is laboratory accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 required?
ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) develop joint ISO/IEC documents under the management of the ISO Committee on Conformity assessment (ISO/CASCO).-ISO/IEC 17025:2017 Forward. Following ISO standards is voluntary, so this answer is no, ISO 17025 is not required. ISO/IEC 17025:2017 is the international standard for competent laboratory operations, validity of results, and instills confidence between laboratory personnel and their clients. When a food testing laboratory works through the process of earning and then maintaining the accreditation, the laboratory sees benefit to their operations and for marketing to industry. ISO/IEC 17025:2017 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories is the International Standard. Any lab achieving ISO 17025 is functioning at the highest level.

You want your laboratory ISO 17025 accredited.
As a member of the food industry, you want your food testing laboratory to be accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2017, even though it is not required. It is now normal in the food testing lab business to be accredited. Right now, go to the testing laboratory website and search for their ISO certificate. Most labs will post this on their website. If not, call your laboratory’s customer service and request a PDF of the certificate. On the certificate, tests will be listed for microbiological, chemical or physical testing for which the lab has proven competency. Cross-check the methods on the certificate to the methods on your laboratory report. If you have questions, talk to your customer representative.

The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule under FSMA requires a written hazard analysis and recall plan. ConnectFood can help you meet the requirement of the rule and be prepared for a potential recall. The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting LLC
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she has delivered over 20 workshops to the food industry. With 35+ years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an active communicator at all levels of an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in the prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.