Breaking down the science of food

Breaking down the science of food

Nutritional values, pesticides, allergens, GMOs—people want to know what’s in their food, and transparency in the food and beverage industry is more important today than ever before

In 1954, DTS Food Laboratories (DTS) formed to lend its analysis expertise to Australia’s dairy industry. Over the years, the company has risen to national recognition as a trusted name in the marketplace, providing analysis and support to clients including Murray Goulburn, Fonterra and Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, as well as Dairy Food Safety Victoria and authorities throughout New South Wales and Queensland. Maintaining continuous accreditation from the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) since 1961, DTS now services the needs of the wider food manufacturing industry as well.

Client-driven investments

DTS maintains a strong investment program aiming to engage its clients and improve their experience, trimming turnaround times and adding to its range of capabilities.

“We’ve been gradually adding to the range of services that we provide to ensure that the companies are able to get their total needs met by a single company,” says Graeme Richardson, CEO at DTS. “We’ve been adding testing capabilities for those emerging issues such as pesticide residues, allergens, and recently identified bacterial species that can cause sickness or death.”

In 2012, the company bought the cutting edge laboratory Food Allergen Control Training Analysis (FACTA), giving clients access to Australia’s leading analytic capabilities in the allergen field. To help clients make sense of these analytics, DTS has invested heavily in support services.

“We have built significant technical support that we can offer our clients,” says Richardson. “We have a philosophy that not only should we be able to do the testing, but we should also be able to provide technical advice to our clients to help them understand the results. It’s a total line of service.”

The appeals of independent assessments

Internal audits and checks are routine in the food and beverage industry, but as Richardson explains, third party testing is key to acceptance of a product by customers. “It’s an independent assessment of product,” says Richardson. “We can’t be influenced by pressures to modify our results.”

But this is not the only reason why a producer may choose to consistently partner with a third party testing service. Another key factor is the reduced lead-time specialists like DTS provide.

“Being the largest supplier of food testing services in Australia means we can offer faster turnaround times especially in Chemistry because we start more batches per week of each test and handle bigger volume surges when customers have problems with their products” says Richardson.

A full suite of fast, reliable services is of particular appeal to businesses that service the short shelf life ‘ready to eat’ markets where shelf life is absolutely critical.

“For businesses that do their own testing, the loss of a quality manager can be a major disaster, and quite often they are not easy to replace—especially if the facility happens to be outside a capital city,” notes Richardson. “Generally DTS can provide the services cheaper than what it would cost to run testing internally, and this fact has seen a number of factory laboratories shut down, and DTS carries out the testing at its laboratories in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.”

Seamless service through teamwork

In a complex environment where efficiency and precision are of the ultimate importance, coordination between departments is paramount. “Whether it’s just routine testing or whether a client is trying to sort out production issues, we need to be able to get their samples into our system quickly, move it through our system efficiently, and get the results out as soon as possible,” says Richardson. “Each of these steps involves a different group of people.”

Teamwork is encouraged as a core part of DTS company culture, fostered through extensive training opportunities, including management certificates and diplomas in partnership with Victoria University in Melbourne.

“We put a lot of effort into training and developing our staff,” says Richardson, noting that there are many reciprocal benefits to this practice. “We have quite a positive work environment—modern facilities with a lot of natural light, and flexibility in meeting peoples’ needs. In return, people tend to go the extra mile. When there’s a sudden surge of business or an issue arises that needs to be addressed quickly, people are prepared to dig in and help.”

The road ahead

 “Our task is to meet the needs of our client. That’s how everything is judged, and that’s what makes us a trusted partner, because that’s what we do for our clients,” says Richardson.

DTS Food Laboratories has a rich history of service behind it, and Richardson sees positive things to come as the business continues to spread its wings to new sectors and new clientele. “I think the future is exciting,” he says. “We will continue to add capability, and we look to extend the range of clients that we service and to expand geographically.”

As consumers increase their interest in their food, and transparency becomes ever more critical, there is plenty of testing and analysis left to do—and DTS is ready for the challenge.