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What Are the Costs of a Food-Testing Lab? editorial staff editorial staff

Set a reasonable budget for food-testing services.

  • Food testing is required to confirm any food items you sell are safe and free of contaminants.
  • Laboratories also provide nutritional content testing as a way for companies to abide by FDA labeling rules.
  • Budget for food laboratory testing before product releases to avoid issues like litigation.

Why is food testing important?

Laboratory tests on food are an important part of the manufacturing process. If proper food testing isn't done by a manufacturer, the company is at risk of litigation if a problem occurs later. Food is tested for different reasons, including confirming the food is free of contaminants and determining the chemical composition with nutritional values for the product. For safety purposes, it's critical that food is tested to determine if there's any of the following contaminants:

  • Chemicals: Any type of chemicals, including pesticides and antibiotics, that the food could've been exposed to prior to testing.
  • Biological agents: For this test, the company searches for bacteria that could produce illness if the food item is ingested.
  • Physical objects: Food testing confirms no foreign objects have been found within the food items.

How do you test for food contamination?

There are different techniques food laboratories can use to test for contamination. To test for food contamination, a sample of the food item is taken and analyzed in a laboratory. Pathogen tests are used on the sample with results that quickly indicate if any forms of bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella are present. Mass spectrometry is used as a way to search for toxins on food items such as pesticides and antibiotics. 

What are some ways food can become contaminated?

There are multiple ways from food to become contaminated during the manufacturing process. Beef and poultry are particularly prone to contamination. For fresh fruits and vegetables, the items can become contaminated if they are cleaned with water that has traces of animal or human feces. During preparation, food is subject to contamination. For instance, if the person handling the food hasn't washed his or her hands properly. Cross-contamination is possible in kitchens.

Food-testing services are used to test products for everything from contaminants to the level of nutrients in order to put it on the label.

Food-testing services are not something your consumer product company can go without, so it is important to set the proper budget to cover all the necessary tests.

It is always a good idea to allocate extra money in your budget for unexpected food-testing laboratories pricing and costs that are bound to arise. Food-testing companies often charge per test so you can determine prior to testing how many tests you will need to have run.

Be sure to  include in your budget re-tests in the event that a contaminant is found or a nutrient is low. Consider the following food-testing laboratories pricing and costs when setting your food-testing labs budget:

  1. Food-testing labs can test for microorganisms and other contaminants.
  2. Food-testing companies can determine the nutritional content of your products.
  3. Consumer food-testing labs can evaluate your products for taste and quality.

1. Hire food-testing services to test for microbiology.

There are many things that could contaminate food grade products. Food-testing services charge per microbiological sample for each organism being tested. The price depends on how labor intensive the test is for each organism as it differs from contaminant to contaminant.

An average microbiological test at a food-testing company, for one sample, is between $20 and $50. Most tests have a flat fee; however, there are some microbiological tests that may be priced based on the request such as identifying a bacteria or foreign substance.

2. Enlist food-testing laboratories to evaluate the nutritional content of your products.

Making claims on a nutritional label is a serious business. Consumers purchase products oftentimes based on the special nutritional claims made by the company. In order to qualify for certain nutritional claims, the food item has to fall within a very specific range in order to make the claim.

For example, an "excellent" source of calcium needs to have more calcium content than that of a product that claims to be a "good" source of calcium. Food analysis laboratories can test your products and determine exactly how much of a nutrient is included. These tests cost either in the $20 to $30 range to more than $100. This is due to the complexity of testing for nutrients.

Some are rather simple, such as protein or sodium measuring, while others, such as sugars or total fat, are much more difficult to test for which is reflected in the price.

3. Have food-testing labs evaluate the taste of your food products.

During the product and development stage of a new product, the taste is crucial to evaluate. There are food-testing companies that specialize in sensory evaluation of consumer products. The cost for these services can largely vary based on the request.

This type of testing is much more involved than typical laboratory testing, though, because it involves a panel of trained tasters in order to complete the testing. These services can range from $200 per hour up to several thousands of dollars for a comprehensive project.

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