How many different samples does your company need to check for gluten on a given day? If it’s more than one or two, you may be wondering about the best way to keep track of which samples have been run on which GlutenTox test strips. After all, if you can’t remember which sample was analyzed with which test strip, you put yourself at risk. If one of the tests comes up positive but you can’t be certain which ingredient you were testing – then you’ve got to run your gluten tests all over again, wasting both time and money.
Luckily, with a few quick tips and tricks you can be certain your food or surface samples are well-tracked and your results are safe. And while this article is focused on using GlutenTox Pro or GlutenTox Sticks, you’ll find that the same principles hold true for our AlerTox Sticks rapid tests as well.
Some manufacturing facilities have limited testing needs, and only need to run one test at a time – for example, maybe their Allergen Control Plan only calls for testing for gluten in the finished product. They might pull samples from the beginning, middle and end of the production run – but they will likely check each sample for gluten as soon as it is pulled. With only one sample in the lab or clean room at a time, it’s easy to be certain of the sample’s provenance.
Many of the commercial kitchens and food manufacturing facilities that use GlutenTox, though, are running multiple samples at once. If that’s the case, it’s important to have a clear, consistent protocol for labeling and organizing your samples during collection, while running tests for gluten, and after as they are stored for temporary reference. You may find our suggestions helpful if you are:
- testing multiple lots (or multiple bags from one lot) of an incoming ingredient
- pulling samples from top, middle and bottom of a large batch of gluten-free or allergen-free product
- checking multiple environmental locations to ensure that cleaning has removed all gluten residue
- using GlutenTox’s adjustable sensitivity to run tests at multiple detection limits at the same time
- sharing responsibility for testing with other Quality Assurance team members
- sharing your testing area or QC lab with team members who might move your tests before you’ve finished recording your data
So, what are the steps towards successfully organizing your samples and your gluten tests?
- Keep consistent records. How does your plant keep a record of your testing? Formal, structured record keeping is an important part of any HARPC or HACCP plan – after all, in the event of a potential recall or an audit you need to be able to quickly reference your actions from yesterday, last week, last month, or even earlier. While there are plenty of different ways to keep records, our free, downloadable Records Log can be a good start. At a minimum you will want to keep careful track of:
- Date and time of test
- Lot information of the kit used
- Sample ID and/or name – this can be complex or simple; you may need a separate written reference explaining the way that sample ID numbers are derived or cataloging additional details about samples indexed to their sample ID.
- Test parameters or LOD
- Test results
- Name (or initials) of QA personnel who ran the test
- Set the mood. As important as mise en place is for chefs, it’s even more important for lab technicians. Make sure you have everything you’ll need to run the tests laid out in an organized manner before you start testing anything. The goal is to help you avoid ruining your concentration for preventable reasons, like looking for your pipettes or your stopwatch.
- Write it down. Start filling out the records log before you even open your GlutenTox box: what samples are you testing? What PPM level are you planning to test to? What day is today? Write down these descriptions, and assign each sample a simple letter or number ID. The IDs do not have to be complicated – you can call them A, B, C and D! Once your samples are labeled, find a way to label your vials of extraction solution and dilution solution as well as your test strip itself, all with the same ID. Fine-tipped permanent markers are easy but will smudge. A ballpoint pen is a better option, but the best option: keep a set of small printable stickers handy. This way you can write on a flat surface, and stick the information where it needs to go. As you perform the test, make sure your ID and sample match up with the sample description you have written down.
- Take a photo. While it can be tempting to store the test strips in a record book, a picture is more helpful.The test strips themselves need to be read promptly at 10 minutes; the results after hours or days are not accurate. Your stored test strips could appear negative instead of positive (or vice versa) when examined in the future. Of course, you don’t need to take a photo at all – if your written records are thorough, they will tell you everything you need to know.
- Dispose of the disposables. Once you’re finished with your test and your records are written up, dispose of any items that you cannot use again (spoons, pipettes, vials) and put any archival material (samples) away.
Not so bad, right? Once you start incorporating these steps into your testing routine, you’ll find that they become second nature. And even better, you’ll find that not only are you testing with confidence, but you’re reporting with confidence too.