Lab Matters Summer 2018 - Page 35

membership • “Once we become ISO accredited, maintaining that will be a challenge,” said Jarvis. The laboratory lost one scientist position due to a local economic downturn, and remaining staff will “have to figure out how to keep all the quality processes in place and improving.” Microbiology and Water Chemistry Supervisor Grant Campbell loads identification cards on the Vitek 2 Compact for confirmation testing on proficiency samples. Photo: WDA Laboratory Scientist II Kristine Oolman analyzes data from a Metrohm Ion Chromatography run on a groundwater sample submitted by a conservation district. Photo: WDA minerals and metals. Jesse said, “We’ve done studies of both foraged and browsed feed quality for livestock and wildlife. The state game and fish agency and private farmers and ranchers like to know the range quality of what’s available. Not many laboratories do this work.” • Earning an FDA Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standard award in 2015. The laboratory’s single highest volume test area, however, is water, including surface water, well water and municipal drinking and wastewater. In addition to bacteriological analyses, much of this work employs inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to measure heavy metals and ion chromatography to measure nitrates, sulfates and fluorides. The second largest test area is meat. Jarvis explained, “The state has a contract with the US Department of Agriculture to test meat from meat packing plants for Salmonella, Listeria, and Shiga toxin- producing E. coli.” Another high-volume area is pesticide testing to support investigations of possible pesticide misuse and to measure chemical residues on grains and other food commodities before they are shipped across state lines to customers like beer breweries. Success Stories • Bringing a laboratory with “few established systems and no standard operating procedures” up to ISO 17025 standards. The laboratory has already undergone an ISO pre-assessment and expects to be fully ISO-certified by fall 2018. Jarvis said, “This is a big deal for us. And I’d like to thank the food laboratories across the nation that have shared forms with us and offered advice and moral support. Their generous help propelled us forward and saved us a lot of time.” PublicHealthLabs @APHL • Greatly reducing customer complaints, mostly related to turn-around-time. For example, ICP-MS analyses for heavy metals once took up to six months to report; today, that work is completed in one to two weeks. • Bringing on gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and expanding liquid chromatography mass spectrometry capabilities in the last two years. Said Jesse, “Determination of pesticide residue in food by GC-MS is on the scope of accreditation we’re working toward.” However, he noted, “Some of our more interesting GC-MS samples are related to bee investigations: the Department of Agriculture licenses and oversees apiaries and beehives, and we investigate complaints of pesticides affecting apiaries in the state.” • Acquiring wireless tablets for staff to complete worksheets and do sample tracking. • Training new staff. Last summer both of the laboratory’s microbiologists moved on, and Jarvis and Quality Assurance coordinator Giulia Vernati, MS, returned to bench duty for nine months while recruitment was ongoing. Those positions are now filled with “great staff,” but “it’s still a training process,” said Jarvis. “It just takes time to rebuild the program to a different level. It is much more structured now than it ever has been.” Goals • Making better use of the facility’s LabWorks © laboratory information management system, especially to enhance customer results reports. • Adding to the laboratory’s initial ISO 17025 scope of accreditation. • Adopting new instrumentation and methods as funding allows. • Continuing to support and appreciate laboratory staff. Jarvis said, “They are hardworking, fun and enterprising, they have been more than willing to do cross-training, and they can keep equipment working longer than I’ve ever seen. We turn out high quality data only because of them.” n Challenges • Getting samples to the laboratory. “Because of harsh winter weather, we always have transportation issues,” said Jarvis. “We’re in a location where on either side of us they close the highway frequently because of blowing snow and ice.” In fact, winter temperatures of -20°F are not unusual, and snow may fall in any month of the year. While most samples are dropped off by Department of Agriculture inspectors, Jarvis said, “We are big customers of UPS and FedEx, but those trucks get stuck just like everyone else.” APHL.org Laboratory Assistant Michelle Webber prepares media slants for pathogen identification on meat samples using a Jencons peristaltic pump. Photo: WDA Summer 2018 LAB MATTERS 33