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A technician working at the Laboratory. ©FAO/Olivier Asselin


Texas A&M University and FAO committed to promoting quality in feed analysis laboratories worldwide


Quality systems that ensure repeatable and defensible analytical results are critical to the safety and quality of regulated products. In the global marketplace, the integrity of sample testing is absolutely necessary for fair trade and the protection of consumer health. To strengthen quality laboratory systems in developing countries, the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), Texas A&M University, and the Office of the Texas State Chemist developed Laboratory Quality Systems, an online training (E-course) offered for both professional and graduate credit.  The course has been offered since 2013, and it provides laboratory professionals with the breadth of knowledge needed to obtain laboratory data and results that are reliable, interpretable, repeatable, and defensible. Course topics include chain of custody, method development, information management, laboratory accreditation, and international laboratory standards. Improving quality control is critical for sustainable development of the livestock sector.


Now celebrating its third year, the FAO-TAMU course offered in summer 2015 had 25 participants from 17 countries around the globe. It has been successfully concluded in August end. “The demand for this course has always been very high and a large number of laboratory staff from developing countries apply for this course; however, it is extremely difficult to conduct the course for more than 25 participants at one time because performance and assignments of candidates are personally monitored and they are individually mentored by the course instructors”, said Harinder Makkar, Coordinator of the program from FAO. Based on comments from this year’s participants, it is evident that majority of them found the course content to be of “great relevance and practical use”. They were immediately able to use the concepts and skills learned into the daily operations of their laboratory.  The course dual focus on laboratory quality systems knowledge and the practical skills needed to apply this knowledge is especially useful for laboratory personnel who are in the initials stages of developing a laboratory quality system or implementing an ISO system. One  participant noted that “our laboratory system will feel the positive impact of this knowledge for better positioning and improvement in order to produce highly accurate, reliable and defensible result.”  Furthermore, the participants have access to expert faculty from TAMU, who can offer assistance addressing and improving laboratory quality issues in their lab settings. Many of the participants commented that they would be open to participating in other similar programs offered by TAMU and/or FAO.

Participants benefit from the course by learning how to implement quality systems in a laboratory to access regulated products.  According to Tim Herrmann, the Course Director, TAMU, “as an outcome of the course, the participants will be better equipped to manage a laboratory and evaluate the quality and reliability of laboratory data under industrial and regulatory settings in the global market”.  By participating in the FAO-TAMU Laboratory Quality Systems course, participants are able to recognize the value of a laboratory quality system and its essential role in improving lab functioning. Tim Herrman, Susie Dai, and Jim Balthrop from TAMU were the primary instructors for the course with Prabha Vasudevan serving as the course facilitator.  TAMU and FAO are highly committed to help and assist the global laboratory system strive for better quality by providing laboratory personnel with the relevant and necessary knowledge and skills. This course is expected to be conducted in the summer of 2016 as well.

Acknowledging that developing countries require capacity building in generation of quality data on chemical constituents and nutritional value of feeds and feed ingredients, and capacity building through this mechanism is low-cost, efficient and prudent; this year as well, FAO regional offices have actively participated in identifying candidates for the course. The FAO Regional Office in Africa (Ghana) has been active in sponsoring candidates for this course. The FAO Regional Office in Asia (Thailand) also sponsored candidates.