The Institute of Applied Science (IAS) Microbiology Laboratory of the Faculty of Science, Technology & Environment was awarded international accreditation status on 28 July 2010 becoming the only laboratory in the South-West Pacific that will be internationally recognised and qualified to carry out microbiological tests. Accreditation is an assurance of technical competence and results in increased confidence in the reliability of tests results produced by the Laboratory knowing that best technical standards have been followed and the results are recognized throughout the world.
The achievement of the accreditation followed the Laboratory’s addressing of corrective actions raised by the assessment team from the accreditation body, International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) during the Laboratory’s assessment in November 2009. The accreditation assessment as well as the purchasing of new equipment, microbiological media and reagents for the Microbiology Laboratory was funded by the USP in response to a request from the Fiji Government’s Ministry of Health (MOH). The MOH had earlier identified the IAS Laboratory as the National Technical Laboratory for the analysis of foods in light of Fiji’s Food Safety Act as well as for the exportation of fish and related products to the European Union.
In the lead up to the assessment, the European Union through the Strengthening Fishery Products Health Conditions (SFP) in ACP/OCT Countries project had funded consultants who conducted reviews of the Laboratory’s standard operating procedures, training and audits of the Microbiology Laboratory. The development of the microbiological test methods had also been a result of the audits conducted previously by multinational companies whose products are analysed at the IAS Laboratory for exportation purposes. The Laboratory first achieved accreditation in June 2004 for food chemical analysis, and accreditation for water chemical tests in 2005 – 2006.
Professor Bill Aalbersberg, the Director of IAS, said the process of preparing the Microbiology Laboratory for the accreditation assessment was challenging as IANZ follow the NZS/ISO/IEC 17025 standard hence a key requirement for the accreditation states that the institute work towards maintaining and improving the quality assurance and quality control in the laboratory’s operations.