Tucked away in the Waikato Innovation Park, just a stones throw away from FoodWaikato facilities, lies the Food Lab Pacific (FLP) testing laboratory.
Established in 2018, FLP is a joint venture between Analytica Laboratories and MilkTestNZ.
Since then, business development manager Sean Singh, has been on a mission to provide dairy and food manufacturers with a well-rounded testing service that supports and helps to grow their business.
“FLP and its shareholding partners cover testing from the farm to the ship, and to your consumer,” he says.
The team at FLP have also worked with manufacturers of organic and A2 milk that are now on the supermarket shelf along with drinking milk, infant formula, milk powder, and ice cream to make sure products are safe for consumption.
With recent changes in EU limits for perchlorate and chlorate compounds, FLP has been supporting manufacturers in this area as well for the past 8-9 months.
“We have done a lot of trace back testing to raw materials on farm, raw milk testing and in-process testing, as well as investigating processing aids and ingredients to find out if there is anything that could be adding to the particular product,” says Singh.
FLP also offers analytical chemistry and microbiology support in product development, in-process checks, and QA investigations.
“To date we have helped customers with in-process testing to support adjustments of processing conditions and with new product commercialisations.”
Singh says many of the team at FLP have backgrounds in the dairy industry which helps when supporting businesses throughout their testing.
“I have worked in the dairy industry for the last 10 years, managing labs and setting up lab operations. We know how manufacturing plants work so we have a good understanding of the processes and their sampling and testing needs. So, when a new customer comes to us, especially in dairy or in the food industry, we actually do know what they are talking about and can provide guidance on their requirements if needed.”
The lab is accredited to international testing standards, and Singh and his team make sure to provide their clients with more information about what they need to be testing and what the results actually mean.
“If a client wants to export a particular market, we can provide guidance in around what MPI could require and what they may need to show on their export certificate to be able to export the product.
“We customise service for our clients. We look at their business needs, their requirements, and we work to meet their targets and deadlines.”
Of course, no modern lab is complete without a collection of the latest technology and FLP is no different, boasting new, state-of-the-art technology in mass spectrometry.
Singh is particularly excited by this brand-new piece of instrumentation that can identify micronutrients or contaminants that might be in samples.
“We are setting this up right now and are excited to be building on the historical reputation for excellence that our shareholding partner Analytica has built in this area of analytical chemistry,” he says.
The FLP set up also includes specialist equipment such as PCR for rapid microbiological analysis of pathogens such as Listeria, Salmonella and Cronobacter.
“We also have ICP-OES for minerals determination, UPLC for vitamins and nutrients determination, GC-FID for fatty acid determination, Kjeldahl and Dumas for nitrogen determination and FIA for nitrate and nitrite determination.
“We do general microbiology determinations using traditional as well as rapid analysis methods, and we have the capability of conducting compositional testing such as fat, moisture, ash, pH, bulk density and foreign matter analysis.”
Helping clients not only find the information they need, but also understand it, is part of what keeps Singh enthused.
“Now I’m looking after my clients to guide them through what testing they need, and I can provide an understanding of what their requirements are because I have been in their shoes before.
“I can get faster results and better information out to them, so they are not only looking at numbers on a piece of paper, but they know what those numbers mean and what that means for their product,” he says.
FLP is accredited by International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) under the Chemical and Biological Testing Laboratory Accreditation Programmes as well as under the MPI Recognised Laboratory Programme.