All FAQs

Allergen Testing FAQs

1. What applications are the outline analyses applicable?

The allergen assays we offer are designed to validate the absence of the allergen in question.

They are not appropriate for food products which are known to contain the allergen in question.

In fact, if a sample contains more than 1% (10,000 ppm) of the allergen in question, the assay will be overwhelmed and give a false-negative result.

The assay is applicable on foodstuffs, rinse water, or environmental swab samples.

2. Do you offer environmental swabbing for allergens?

Yes – Your allergen management plan may include validating your cleaning procedure to proof its effectiveness in removing allergens.

Rinse water testing is also an option to ensure the effectiveness of cleaning in terms of allergen contamination.

You may perform this testing on-site yourself, however, if you desire documented third party results, you may schedule us to perform this survey.

Please contact us to discuss the price and availability of this service.

 

3. Do you offer any other alleren assays?

Yes – below is a list of assays available upon request (additional charges may apply):

Allergen Assay Allergen Assay Allergen Assay
Almond Crustacea Peanut
Brazil Nut Hazelnut Sesame
Lactoglobulin Lupin Total Milk
Cashew/Pistachio Macadamia Nut Walnut
Coconut Mustard Whole Egg

Cost & Payment FAQs

What are your Payment Terms and what forms of payment do you accept?

Payment Terms and Conditions

Samples are as submitted by Customer; MBL will not invoice a third party unless agreed upon by MBL, at MBLs’ sole discretion.
Customer must have a valid credit card on file with MBL; this card will be charged immediately upon completion of analyses (per project or weekly invoice as dictated by MBL), unless credit terms have been granted.  Customers scheduling $500 or more per week in MBL tests and services must apply for credit terms to pay by check or be must be approved by MBL to pay via credit card on file.
MBL may extend credit to Customer based upon the findings of a credit or other reference check, and/or the history with Customer and/or its representatives.  Customer granted credit agrees: payment terms are Net 15 days; MBL will charge credit card on file for overdue balances; a late charge of 1.5% per month will be added to all unpaid balances; all current and/or ongoing work will be halted for accounts overdue by 30 days and no additional work will be accepted until the balance is paid in full; accounts delinquent 90 days will be scheduled for collections; Customer is responsible for collection and/or legal fees MBL incurs as a result of securing payments for invoices which are in default.
MBL reserves the right to collect prepayment from Customer; costs of analyses are as defined via our Pricelist and/or Quotations.  Additional charges, as assessed by MBL and agreed upon by Customer, may be applied for: sample preparation; rush and/or weekend analyses; sample collection and/or pick-up; consulting; time required to complete above and beyond Customer requests.

All Major Credit Cards Accepted

Credit Cards

What are your prices? Are there discounts for volume samples?

Please contact us for pricing including large volume discounts.

Drinking Water Testing FAQs

1. Can I & How do I collect by own Drinking Water sample?

If you desire, you may collect your own drinking water sample; we can supply all the materials are instructions for doing so.

Obtain a Drinking Water Sample Collection Kit from Murray-Brown Laboratories containing:

Record the following information in your on-site sample log book and on the MBL Drinking Water Sample Submission Form:

  • Name of system (PWS site identification number, if available)
  • Unique Sample Identification (if any, as indicated on the PWS Monitoring Plan, i.e. “Bathroom Sink”)
  • Sample Site Location (including physical address)
  • Sample type (i.e. Routine Compliance, Repeat Compliance, or Special Purpose Non-Compliance)
  • Date and time of collection
  • Analysis requested
  • Disinfectant residual, if applicable (samples for compliance purposes)
  • Name of sampler
  • Any remarks

Following the Sample Collection Instructions, aseptically collect and transport the sample.

 

2. How do I select the site & faucet to collect my Drinking Water Sample? What is a Low Contamination Risk Faucet?

Selecting what faucet, including its type, location, and the water source which feeds it, to collect a water sample from depends upon why the sample is being collected.

  • If the sample is being collected for compliance purposes under the Total Coliform Rule, then the purpose is to test the water distribution system NOT the plumbing of an individual building.  Therefore, all precautions should be taken to eliminate collecting a sample which may yield a positive result due to the potential for contamination some sampling sites have by selecting a Low Contamination Risk Faucet (see blue box below).
  • If, however, the sample is being collected for non-compliance purposes from a production facility or home to assess water which may be directly consumed by humans, or come into contact with goods destined for human consumption, then the sample must be collected from a representative tap which supplies such water, no matter its condition.  If such testing does reveal the presence of coliforms and/or E. coli, it would be appropriate to conduct an investigation to determine the cause, develop, and implement appropriate corrective action, and follow up with repeat samples to confirm the success or failure of the corrective action taken.

Faucet Selection for Samples Collected for Compliance Purposes

The TCR requires each small community drinking water system to sample for coliforms according to a written plan, (PWS Monitoring Plan) which must be made available to the CDPHE.  Having a written sample collection protocol helps ensure that all sampling is done correctly, even when assignments of water system personnel change.

The plan specifies where in the distribution system routine samples will be drawn in order to ensure that they are “representative” of the water supplied to every customer.  Representative samples that accurately reflect the quality of the finished water are crucial because, if coliforms are in the water supply, they may not be found uniformly throughout the distribution system.  The sampling plan also designates repeat sampling sites to be used if a sample drawn from a routine sampling point tests positive for coliforms.  The purpose of sampling is not to draw “clean” samples, but to identify any coliform contamination so it can be dealt with promptly.  Because of this, it is important to identify dead ends and trouble spots in the distribution system for sampling locations.

When defining the Plan, sampling site locations, including specific faucets, which, according to their location or condition, have a high potential for contamination should be avoided as they may result in a positive result that is not truly representative of the water quality in the distribution system:

Low Contamination Risk Faucet

Water taps used for sampling should be free of aerators, strainers, hose attachments, mixing type faucets, purification devices, and should be in good repair (no leaks).  Avoid collecting samples from kitchen or utility sinks with swing arm necks, or from swivel-type faucets that have a single valve for hot and cold water.   It is not a good idea to collect water samples from:  new plumbing & fixtures or those repaired recently; outside taps or hoses, faucets that have leaky packing material around the stem; faucets that supply areas, such as janitorial or commercial sinks, where bacterial contamination is likely; faucets close to or below ground level; faucets that point upward; faucets that have treads on the inside of their spouts; faucets connected to cisterns, softeners, pumps or pressure tanks.

References:

CDPHE TCR Best Sampling Practices — Drinking Water Sample Collection Techniques.

  Open PDF

EPA Developing a Sample Siting Plan — How to develop a Sampling Monitoring Plan and how to determine sampling sites.

  Open PDF

EPA Sample Collection Techniques — An overview of drinking water sample collection with images.

  Open PDF

EPA Ground Water Rule Sample Collection & Transport:  A Quick Reference Guide — An overview of ground source water collection; page 2 details shipping instructions for samples.

  Open PDF

EPA Quick Guide to Drinking Water Sample Collection — General Sampling Procedures; Proceed to Total Coliform Rule.

  Open Link

 

 

3. Will MBL collect my drinking water sample for me?

MBL is qualified to collecting drinking water samples for both compliance and non-compliance purposes which are to be analyzed for total coliforms and E. coli.

Upon request and by appointment, MBL can collect drinking water samples if you so desire.

If you are a Public Water System, you must provide the exact sample location according to your Monitoring Plan, including the Site Name and Site Address.

Please contact us to discuss the price and availability of this service.

4. How do I determine the Chlorine Residual of my water prior to collecting a sample?

Sample Collection Requirements From EPA Manual for the Certification of Laboratories Analyzing Drinking Water:

  • Public water systems need to measure residual disinfectant concentrations with an EPA approved method.

EPA Analytical Methods Approved for Drinking Water Compliance Monitoring under the Disinfection Byproducts Rules — Proceed to Combined, Free, or Total Chlorine.

  Open PDF

HACH EPA Compliant Methods

  Open Link

5. How do I investigate a total coliform positive result in my drinking water sample?

Below are links to various investigational resources you may use to aid in determining the root cause for a total coliform positive in a drinking water sample.

EPA Distribution System–>Water Quality and the Distribution System (see resources at bottom of page).

  Open Link

EPA Small Systems Guide to the Total Coliform Rule

  Open PDF

CDPHE Total Coliform Rule Compliance

  Open PDF

General Sample Submission FAQs

How do I get my results?
MBL delivers results via E mail in the form of a PDF Certificate of Analysis to the recipients designated in the Laboratory Deliverables section of the New Customer Package.
MBL will only report to a third-party at the consent of Customer.
Upon request, results may also be delivered via fax or USPS mail, if this is your preferred method of delivery.
For multiple recipients of results, we recommend establishing an internal distribution list whereby you can define and maintain such recipients (i.e. labresults@yourcompany.com).
How long do you keep my sample & can I have them back?
Sample Retention Times (after reporting results) are as listed in the table below.
Any repeat, additional, and/or confirmation analysis must be requested by the Customer within the retention time frame.
Repeat analysis performed at the Customers' request will be charged to the Customer if the original results are confirmed.
To limit liability, samples submitted to MBL will not be returned to Customer because they have been stored in a facility which is known to have live pathogens.

Sample Retention Times (After Reporting Results) are as Follows:


Sample Type Retention Time
Qualitative Microbiology Negative Enrichments / Samples – Not Retained
Positive Enrichments / Samples – 24 Hours
Quantitative Microbiology 2 Business Days
Chemistry Analyses 2 Business Days
Other Analyses 2 Business Days 

How long does it take to get results?

Specific turnaround times for each test can be found in our Test Library.

Our turnaround times are approximate, and do not include weekends or holidays for chemical and some microbiology analyses.

We will always try to begin analysis on the day we receive your samples.  However, samples submitted after 3pm may be held until the next day.

A 50% surcharge will be assessed for samples submitted after 3 pm requiring same day set up for microbiological analysis.

E. coli O157:H7 results are typically reported by 6:00am Tuesday through Friday, 7:00am on Saturday, 2:00pm on Sunday, and 10:00am on holidays.

Alternative terms regarding turnaround times may be arranged on a case-by-case basis.

What is the Sample Description?

This is assigned by You, the Customer, to identify the name of samples submitted to MBL, as indicated on the Sample Submission Form.

You should describe your sample in a way which makes sense to you and is meaningful now and later when referring to your records.

Describing samples in a like and similar manner each time you submit the same type of sample can help you later in comparing data from one lot to another.

Methodology FAQs

How much sample do you need for a test?

Typically, larger sample sizes equate to more representative results.

In general, most analyses require 100 grams to 500 grams of your product for an accurate test.

Each analysis is different, so please visit our Test Library for specific sample size requirements.

What Certifications do you maintain and where can I download them?

We maintain two Certifications (click on the image to download).

Please see our Accreditations Page for more information on our Certifications and our Commitment to Quality.

ISO/IEC 17025:2005 Certificate

Murray-Brown Laboratories ISO 17025 Certificate Exp 08-31-18

CDPHE Drinking Water Certificate

MBL State of Colorado Drinking Water Certificate 010117 to 123117

What matrices can you analyze?

We can handle a variety of matrices, including nearly all foods and food products, environmental samples, and dietary supplements.  Please inform us if you have any matrix concerns.

What methods will you use to analyze my sample?

Murray-Brown Labs’ ISO/IEC 17025:2005 Certificate itemizes all analyses/methods for which we are accredited.

Unless specified by the Customer in writing, we will select the method believed to be the most appropriate for analyzing samples based upon the information you provided.

We will notify you when a method you specify is believed to be inappropriate or out of date, and reserve the right to decline the use of such a method.

Potentially Hazardous Food FAQs

1. What is water activity and pH?

Please see our resource What is Water Activity and pH?

2. Should I request pH, water activity, or both to determine my products status?

Many products will qualify as a non-potentially hazardous food based upon pH alone or aw alone, forgoing the need to determine both parameters.

Water activity is reduced in a product via two methods.  The first involves processing the product in a way which drives off water, such as cooking, baking or dehydration.  The second method involves tying up the free water by the addition of solutes, usually sugars or sodium chloride (salt).  This creates an imbalance in osmotic pressure which draws the water from the cells.

The following categories are types of products which typically have low aw values:  nuts, dried fruits; powders; spices; seeds; cereals and grain products; candy; snack foods such as cookies, crackers, chips, snack bars; some baked goods.

On the other hand, products with naturally low pH values, such as salsas, and other acidified foods may qualify as non-potentially hazardous based upon pH alone.  Some foods may include:

Sauces, such as BBQ sauces, jams and jellies, may fit in one category or another, or may have to be analyzed for both pH and aw to determine their status.  Due to wide variance in product formulations, some sauces may or may not have a low aw and/or pH value depending upon their concentration of solutes, and pH lowering ingredients.

Combination Products

It may be best to analyze components separately in some multi component products.  For example the frosting of a doughnut may be non-potentially hazardous while the doughnut is not.  MBL can help make the determination if the interphase or each component should be analyzed for pH and/or aw.

 

3. How many samples do I need to test and how much product do you need?

Regulatory bodies such as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, or the Tri-County Health Department typically require analyses for one sample from each of three separate batches of a standardize recipe.

The samples should be representative of real-world product.  There can be no variations in the day-to-day preparation of the food in question with respect to maximum pH or aw.

Some products should be analyzed as quickly as possible (i.e. same day), such as is the case with acidified coked sushi rice.

We request you have your samples to us by 1 pm M-F so that we may analyze them the same day.

4. What is the cost?

The cost is $25 per water activity test and $20 per pH test, please bring a credit card upon sample submission.

5. What types of specific food products have been classified to be Potentially Hazardous?

The following is a limited list of specific food products that have been classified to be potentially hazardous.

  1. Bacon – If it has not been fully cooked.
  2. Balutes – Fertile eggs, generally chicken or duck eggs, which are incubated for a period of time shorter than is necessary for hatching. The developing embryo is incubated generally 14 to 18 days and is considered a delicacy by various ethnic populations when eaten raw or cooked.
  3. Beans – All types of cooked beans.
  4. Whipped Butter – Hazardous because of the apparent reduced microbiological safety factor created by whipping.
  5. Cheese – Soft unripened cheese. Ripened, low moisture hard cheese such as wheels, flats, blocks or longhorns of cheddar cheese produced from pasteurized milk, when waxed or packaged in “shrink” wrapping with the wax or packaging intact, can be safely shipped or stored for a short period of time without refrigeration but it is not recommended. If wheels, flats, blocks, longhorns, or any other forms of cheese have been damaged, cut and repackaged for display and/or sale, thereby exposing interior surfaces to possible contamination, the cut portions as well as the remaining cheese shall be held under refrigeration.
  6. Coffee Creaming Agents – All non-dairy coffee creaming agents in liquid form, except aseptically processed ultra high temperature (UHT) liquid coffee creaming agents.
  7. Cut Leafy Greens- Following 24 multi-state outbreaks between 1998 and 2008, cut leafy greens was added to the definition of potentially hazardous food requiring time-temperature control for safety (TCS). The term used in the definition includes a variety of cut lettuces and leafy greens. Raw agricultural commodities (RACs) that are not processed or cut on-site are excluded from the definition of cut leafy greens. Herbs such as cilantro or parsley are also not considered cut leafy greens. The pH, water activity, available moisture and nutrients of cut leafy greens supports the growth of foodborne pathogens and refrigeration at 41ºF (5ºC) or less inhibits growth and promotes general die off in some pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7. Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes, once attached to the surface or internalized into cut surfaces of leafy greens, are only marginally affected by chemical sanitizers.
  8. Cut Tomatoes- Historically, uncooked fruits and vegetables, such as cut tomatoes, have been considered non-PHF unless they were epidemiologically implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks and are capable of supporting the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the absence of temperature control. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that since 1990, at least 12 multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks have been associated with different varieties of tomatoes and additionally, from 1998-2006, outbreaks associated with tomatoes made up 17% of the produce related outbreaks reported to FDA nationwide. Salmonella has been the pathogen of concern most often associated with tomato outbreaks.
  9. Eggs – Cooked, cracked, fresh with outer shell removed, peeled hard-boiled eggs, and hard-boiled eggs with intact shells which have been hard-boiled and then cooled in liquid. Refrigeration of raw whole eggs in the shell is required.
  10. Garlic – Garlic in oil products.
  11. Mayonnaise or Other Acidified Salad Dressings – If the pH is above 4.6 and/or combined with other food products.
  12. Onions- Cooked and dehydrated that have been reconstituted.
  13. Pasta – All types that have been cooked.
  14. Pastries – Meat, cheese and cream filled.
  15. Pies – Meat, fish, poultry, natural cream, synthetic cream, custard, pumpkin and pies that are covered with toppings which will support microbial growth.
  16. Potatoes – Baked, boiled or fried.
  17. Rice – Boiled, steamed, fried, Spanish and cooked rice used in sushi.
  18. Sour Cream – If the pH is above 4.6 and/or combined with other food products.
  19. Soy Protein – Tofu and other moist soy protein products.
  20. Seed Sprouts – All types.

 

Sample Collection & Transportation FAQs

Do you offer sample pick up and how much does it cost?

Yes – Below you can find our sample pick up pricing, schedule, and fees.

Sample Pick Up is Free if:

 

 

 

Otherwise, Pick Up Fees are:

  Cost of testing is greater than or equal to $100; 24 hours notice is given;

  Pick up location is within 20 miles of MBL;

  Wait time for samples upon arriving at facility is less than 5 minutes.

 

$25 per pick up

(within 20 mile radius; plus $1 per mile over 20 miles; plus $1 per minute past 5 minute wait; plus $25 if less than $100)

When the Customer employs MBL to courier samples, MBL agree to do so in a manner which preserves the integrity of the sample(s).

Do you perform on-site sample collection?

Yes – Our trained staff is available to perform sampling at your or a third-party site.

Please contact us to discuss the price and availability of this service.

Sample collection by MBL on behalf of the Customer will take place according to an appropriate Sampling Plan, selected and/or designed by MBL, which will be available to the Customer for reference.  MBL is not responsible for alterations made by the Customer to the larger portion from which MBL collected samples after such sample collection occurred; such alterations may invalidate reported results.

When the Customer employs MBL to collect and/or courier samples, MBL agree to do so in a manner which preserves the integrity of the sample(s) and the larger portion from which it was collected.

We can also, if needed, assist in training your staff in proper sample collection techniques and procedures.

How do I collect a representative sample?

There is no short answer to this question and it is best to discuss this with any regulatory body that you are dealing with and any associated regulatory program by which your are governed.

We can provide guidance and assistance with most of the common regulatory requirements and associated sampling protocols.

MBL will provide a result which is representative of the sample submitted; it is the responsibility of the Customer to ensure that the sample submitted is representative of the larger portion from which it was collected.

How do I ship my sample to the laboratory?

Usually via overnight courier if refrigerated or frozen with enough coolant to maintain the proper temperature until receipt at our laboratory.

If you are uncertain about the details, please call us to discuss them.

How should I handle my sample before submitting it to the laboratory?

The integrity and representativeness of each sample must be maintained through delivery to the laboratory.

What type of container should I collect my sample in?

The appropriate container for each type of sample is included in our list of tests.  Please call to discuss any non-typical situations.

Shelf Life Testing FAQs

1. What is Shelf Life?

Shelf life in regards to products destined for human consumption is the length of time that product is acceptable for consumption based upon its organoleptic qualities, including taste, texture, odor, color, appearance, etc.  This length of times varies dramatically depending on the type, microbial, and chemical make up of your product.  Many fresh, perishable items are only good for days, while many shelf-stable items may be good beyond one year.

The organoleptic qualities of a product degrade over time.  Both microbiological and chemical phenomenon’s occurring in a product contribute to this degradation: the growth of microbiological populations which increase and metabolize available nutrients creates a multitude of bi-products, some of which are more offensive than others; oxidation of lipids, enzymatic degradation, non-enzymatic browning and other chemical reactions also contribute in various degrees, depending on the product, to a degradation of organoleptic quality.

Typically, but not always, degradation caused by microbiological activity takes precedence in perishable products requiring refrigeration which have a high nutrient content, high water activity, and a pH in the neutral range.

In order to keep microbial populations at bay and extend shelf life, producers may utilize various processing and/or ingredient alterations, such as cooking, pasteurizing, and/or high-pressure processing the product; by packaging the product in modified atmospheric packaging such as low-ox, high-ox, tri-gas, or vacuum packing; by acidifying the product with ingredients such as citric acid, thereby lowering the pH of the product, or by somehow reducing the available water in the product, perhaps through drying or replacing water with oil, to reduce the water activity of the product.

Typically, but not always, degradation caused by chemical activity takes precedence in these types of products which have undergone some processing and/or ingredient alterations.

2. What are Organoleptic Qualities & How do I use them to Determine Shelf Life?

The organoleptic qualities of a product destined for human consumption are elements of the product which are detected by our senses including taste, texture, odor, color, appearance, etc.

The organoleptic qualities of a edible product are the ultimate criteria used by producers and consumers to judge its acceptability.

As the previous question addressed, these qualities degrade over time due to the bi-products resulting from microbial and/or chemical activity.

This degradation occurs at different rates for different products and some bi-products are more offensive than others.

Additionally, customer opinion will vary some what in regards to degradation and shelf life end.

In order to protect and stand behind their own brand, it is important that producers conduct their own organoleptic assessments of any products they produce, independent of any shelf life study conducted by a laboratory.  Because producers have an intimate knowledge of their product, they are the most qualified in judging their products organoleptic qualities.

Taking laboratory data into account, a producer should determine at which point they deem the organoleptic properties of their product degrade beyond an acceptable level for their brand.

3. How is a Shelf Life Study Conducted?

Most shelf life studies, especially for perishable products, must be conducted in real time for accuracy.  For example, if you believe your products shelf life is about 60 days, we will analyze your product from the start of its shelf life to its expected end, accounting for 15% to 30% beyond its expected end.

For accurate and applicable shelf life study results, you must provide up to 8 (depending on the length of your study) individual containers of your product in its final, ready-to-sell form; variables such as ingredients, operational processing conditions, and final packaging containers should be representative of what you intend to use for real world product.