I recently had the pleasure of meeting Daisy Khumalo, the laboratory manager and her side-kick Ayanda Mbonani, senior microbiologist from MLS National laboratory services and supplies. MLS was launched in 2007 out of desperation according to the management team - “We got tired of being a number in someone else’s testing queue and wanted to give what we were not getting in terms of service from other laboratories out there”.
These delightful young ladies are both technical signatories at this accredited laboratory in Midrand and I had the pleasure of interviewing them about the work they do for food companies.
Meet Daisy and Ayanda!
FF: So when did you join MLS and what is your background?
D: I joined MLS in 2010. I have previously worked for Woolworths and QK Meats and have over 10 year experience in the food industry.
A: I started working in the food industry in 2012 as an in-service trainee at what was then Q-Pro. I joined MLS in May 2017.
FF: What does running a SANAS accredited laboratory look like on a daily basis?
D: In order to compete we have to be accredited. You as the client, have to be able to trust our results and we have to implement all the controls on our side to ensure your results and valid. We strive to maintain very competitive pricing while still ensuring valid results.
FF: What is a typical day like at the lab?
A: Shew! Hectic! It’s always crazy busy – there is never a quiet day. We have set sampling schedules with our clients and before we had quieter days. The business has really grown and now we seldom have a quiet day.
D: It’s a dynamic environment and we have a great team so everyone works together as a team.
FF: What makes MLS different from the other labs?
D: We like to think that we are client focused. We monitor you sampling schedule, we phone you to remind you to send the samples. We send you ready to use sampling kits and we prefer to collect the samples ourselves to ensure integrity in the sampling process. We have a great network which allows us to do this efficiently
A: It’s about personal service and also assisting you with the interpretation of your results. Requests from our clients to assist them in understanding the results led us to develop our traffic light system where based on either your specification or legislation we “grade” your results so you can immediately see where your problems are. We provide you with trend reports too so you can manage your plant better. Our clients can directly access their results on our system at any time.
D: If there are no legal requirements or customer specifications, we assist the client by suggesting international micro standards as a benchmark. Through our network, we also offer on site trouble shooting to help you get to the root cause of the problem and even training to make sure employees understand the results and how they can improve these.
FF: So do you think the food industry takes micro testing and the results seriously?
D: I think there is a lot of room for improvement in this area.
FF: Given what you see on a daily basis, do you think there are food safety issues out there that can potentially affect our health as consumers?
D: Definitely! The food industry need to realize that testing and getting results is only one part. You must use the outcome to improve your food safety system if you have out of specification results. Root cause analysis and investigation is required and not just a re-testing exercise. Also, the tests should reflect on the volume of production not only to ensure you pass a food safety audit
For details of accredited and unaccredited services, consult www.mlslabs.co.za