Seed Labs Undergo Rigorous Audits
Since the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI) first started providing audit services to the seed industry in 1997, accredited seed laboratories have continuously been the subjects of a third-party monitoring program.
All new laboratories undergo an initial accreditation audit by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and after-wards are placed on a three-year audit cycle. Labs are notified by CSI in their audit year that they are due for their re-accreditation audit. Each lab has a choice of any of the qualified CSI lab auditors, who travel across Canada.
CSI auditors must successfully complete a five-day International Standards Organization (ISO) lead auditor course. Additionally, lab auditors are required to demonstrate technical competency in auditing labs by successfully completing a CSI lab technical expert exam. Many CSI lab auditors are seed analysts themselves.
All labs in Canada conduct their seed testing in accordance with the Canadian Methods and Procedures for Testing Seed (M&P), and each lab must have an established quality management system that meets the requirements of the CFIA Seed Laboratory Accreditation and Audit Protocol. This standard is based on the ISO 17025 standard for laboratory accreditation. It incorporates many familiar aspects of quality management, such as management review, document control, corrective and preventive actions, handling complaints, staff training and continuing education, as well as equipment calibration, sampling, quality control and reporting test results. In addition to the audit, the laboratory is subject to a multi-faceted monitoring program.
As part of the audit, the CSI auditor collects documentation, such as reports of analysis and the corresponding worksheets, for 10 samples tested according to the M&P for monitoring by CFIA. If there are issues that arise from the documentation review, CFIA issues non-conformances to the laboratory as required.
Each lab is required to perform annual internal audits based on a predetermined schedule. Labs must also implement an internal proficiency monitoring program, where each analyst working in the lab is subject to a monitoring protocol, either between analysts in the same lab, or in partnership with another accredited laboratory (e.g. sample exchange, simultaneous testing, sharing photos for evaluation, etc.). Finally, every year, all laboratories participate in a proficiency monitoring program administered by CFIA.
CFIA issues two panels of proficiency test samples each year from different crop groups. Each lab conducts at least one proficiency sample a year. The results from all the participating labs are statistically analyzed, and CFIA issues non-conformances when any problems are noted. A laboratory’s scope of accreditation might be reduced depending on the results of their proficiency panels.
A great deal of time and effort is put in by the accredited laboratories, CFIA and CSI to ensure that seed testing in Canada is conducted to the highest degree of quality. CSAAC members treat these audits very seriously and use the guidelines and knowledge gained from them to benefit their clients.
Seed growers, traders and retailers should have every confidence in the seed testing results they receive from accredited Canadian labs given the rigorous monitoring environment in which labs operate.