By Omar A. Oyarzabal, Ph.D., University of Vermont Extension; and Craig Henry, Ph.D., Intro Inc.
From time to time, we come across companies planning to incorporate a food microbiology lab for in-house testing. Many times, management foresees the benefit of “faster turn-around time,” thus allowing programs to be adjusted more rapidly. Industry has seen more and more “rapid tests” on the commercial market promoting closer scrutiny of laboratory testing programs. In most cases, companies have done an excellent job evaluating the basic finances of doing in-house testing versus outsourcing to third-party labs. But, sometimes companies don’t understand the complexity associated with starting an in-house microbiology testing laboratory. In many cases, they don’t want to call their facilities a “laboratory” and want a “place” to test only for indicator microorganisms. Yet, after a couple of years, they start testing for pathogens. Such a transition creates a completely different scenario. In this article, we summarize key questions companies should address to help determine if starting an in-house food microbiology laboratory is appropriate.
Does An In-House Lab Make Financial Sense?
Some of the first questions to ask relate to making a financial assessment. We assume the company is already using a third-party outsourced lab to test a relatively-large number of samples per year. Now, the question is, “Can the investment for an in-house laboratory be justified?”