There’s a third-party contract lab located somewhere in Canada that needs to review its Good Laboratory Practices and lab sanitation protocols.

On October 5, 2011, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), in conjunction with Foodfest International 2000 Inc., warned the Ontario public that Strubs ready-to-eat Danish Style Smoked Grav-Lox Atlantic Salmon (Lot code 09262011) should not be consumed.

The Grav-Lox, according to CFIA, might be contaminated with SalmonellaFoodfest International 2000 Inc. (the distributor) recalled the offending product.

That was one month ago.

Today, CFIA rescinded its Health Hazard Alert, and advised the public that the Strubs Grav-Lox did NOT present a health risk from Salmonella.

Why the reversal? Because, according to CFIA, the lab responsible for reporting the initial Salmonella-positive result found that “...the Salmonella positive result was in fact a false positive, attributed to laboratory cross contamination.

Now, I’ve worked in – and managed – several microbiology labs in my professional life. And I’m here to tell you that the LAST thing that should happen in a professionally run lab – whether government, in-house company, or third-party lab – is laboratory cross contamination.

Aseptic technique and assiduous attention to proper lab sanitation procedures are fundamental to the production of dependable lab results. So is the routine use of positive control and negative control sample analysis.

The company for whom the third-party lab did its analyses should have three questions for the lab’s management:

  • How did the lab cross-contamination happen?
  • Why did it take a full month for the cross-contamination to be discovered?
  • How will the lab change its procedures to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again?

I don’t know who hired the third-party lab; it could have been either Strubs or Foodfest (CFIA maintains its own labs). But, if I was the one who hired that hapless excuse for a professional lab, I’d be looking for a replacement, ASAP.