Food safety testing lab opens in the Rio Grande ValleyGrower-shippers and importers in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas now have a closer option for full-service food safety testing.

Selma, Texas-based IEH-Quanta Lab opened a new location in Pharr, Texas, on Oct. 22. The lab is a full-service microbiology and pesticide testing facility, something the Texas International Produce Association has been pushing for the past several years, said Bret Erickson, senior vice president of the Mission-based association.

“This helps the industry so we don’t have to send tests off to San Antonio or California,” Erickson said. “Shippers can utilize a local lab and save a day or two.”

With no local facilities accessible, grower-shippers and importers had to send away samples, which adds time to the shipping process. Delays were especially problematic for shipments held at the border for testing.

“Time is money to the produce industry,” said Jeff Lucas, vice president of technical services for IEH-Quanta Lab. “As loads sit awaiting clearance by a laboratory, the product continues to ripen and mature. Being located in the Rio Grande Valley and being a 7-day-a-week operation allows us to provide a quicker turnaround on test results because there is not shipping of samples and we continue to process the samples on the weekend.”

The long-term goal, Erickson said, is to have a local lab accredited by the FDA for testing required by the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Lucas said the FSMA provision would complement FDA’s own laboratories and allow third party labs like IEH-Quanta to analyze samples on behalf of the FDA.

“Once that happens, that will be a tremendous asset for the valley,” Erickson said.