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Lab Transition Project – FAQs for Contact with GMA Members

1. Why is GMA closing its science laboratory?

This decision about our lab is the result of work over the past year to assess all GMA activities to find ways to focus resources on a common set of core activities that impact the majority of GMA members. This solution provides a new way to get the needed work done for the GMA member companies that use these laboratory and consumer claims services. The number of GMA members using the services has been declining, and the level is not sufficient for these to be considered on-going core GMA services. In addition, GMA recognized that if we were to continue these services in-house, we would need to make a significant investment to upgrade equipment in the lab. Our objective is to provide GMA members with the same high-quality consulting services in a more agile, effective and efficient way. The new process using RQA’s lab services is the best solution to meet this objective. 

2. When is the effective date of this change?

The GMA Laboratory is scheduled to close at the end of December 2016. GMA will stop receiving samples on December 16, 2016.

3. How did GMA decide to partner with RQA?

Science Operations staff have been engaged to find a partner lab to do this work.  An RFP was sent  to potential third-party laboratory partners, and RQA Food Forensics™ was selected as GMA’s preferred third-party partner after a review of the top three submissions (http://www.food-forensics.com/).  An agreement between GMA and RQA is being developed to allow samples to flow to RQA starting in January of 2017.

4. What will happen to consumer claims management?

GMA will continue its consumer claims management services in 2017, and the Consumer Claims Program will be renamed GMA Product Liability Solutions.  Steven Leslie will continue to be the contact for these services.

5. What will happen to research?

GMA continues to employ scientists and technical experts who will keep abreast of the most recent scientific developments. The GMA Science and Education Foundation is considering options to fund external research in 2017 and beyond.

6. Why did GMA choose RQA?

GMA issued an RFP to find a laboratory partner.  Our overall goal was to ensure that the transition was as easy as possible for GMA members.  We considered a number of elements in order to select a partner; they included ensuring that the same range of analyses are available, price, turn around time, customer service, access to experts,  and quality of testing.  RQA was the most suitable partner to work with GMA and our members.

7. What will be GMA’s role for membership assistance requests moving forward?

GMA still employs scientists and technical experts who will be available to consult on food safety, technical and regulatory issues.  GMA will still be available to consult with our members on any technical or spoilage issues.  If the issue requires laboratory testing the samples will be sent to RQA.  GMA will also be available to help with recommendations (such as corrective actions) based on the results. 

8. What will be GMA’s role for consumer claims requests moving forward?

GMA will provide consulting on consumer claims sample testing, assistance in interpreting test results, and how to convey those results on lab reports.  Both Dan Howell and Sandra Arze will remain with GMA to provide these services.

9. Is there a transition plan?

Yes. GMA will continue to provide technical laboratory based membership assistance to historical lab users in 2017 using a third party laboratory vendor: RQA. This includes a mechanism to reimburse companies for costs associated with 2017 membership assistance laboratory services done by RQA that GMA previously would have done. GMA will reimburse the GMA member for the cost of using RQA up to a specified amount based on historical use averages We want GMA members to begin to form their own relationship with RQA. GMA will not be accepting and re-routing any samples.  In 2018, GMA will not be involved in laboratory based membership assistance work.  We will continue to provide technical, non-lab based membership assistance going forward.

10. How will the membership assistance process change?

GMA will be available to consult with our members on any technical or spoilage issues.  If the issue requires laboratory testing the samples will be sent to RQA.  Please visit this link (http://www.food-forensics.com/gmamember.htm) to find information about the program and sample submittal forms.  GMA has developed a process with RQA, and has also negotiated special pricing for GMA members.  The GMA member will contact RQA to ship samples, and correspond directly with RQA regarding types of analyzes and test results.  GMA will be available to assist if needed.  GMA will also be available to help with recommendations (such as corrective actions) based on the results.  In 2017, GMA will reimburse the member company for the cost of using RQA up to a specified amount based on historical use averages.

11. How will the consumer claims process change?

Instead of sending consumer claims samples to GMA they will be sent directly to RQA, along with any requests for storing or returning these samples.  RQA will also invoice and send results directly to GMA members.  As needed, both RQA and GMA members may consult directly with GMA staff.

12. What will this cost GMA member companies?

In 2017, GMA will reimburse membership assistance lab users up to a set amount for use of RQA, the third party laboratory.  In 2018, GMA members will pay for their own lab tests using RQA and will not be reimbursed by GMA.

For consumer claims lab users, fees will now be determined on a per test basis as opposed to a flat fee covering all testing.  GMA has negotiated with RQA to provide favorable rates for GMA members.  Testing a particular sample may cost more or less depending on the number of tests that are requested.  Additionally, RQA does charge a small annual fee for sample storage.

13. How did GMA determine who will get a rebate in 2017?

GMA determined which companies had used the laboratory for membership assistance activities over the last three years.  We assigned a price for the cost of this testing at a contract lab based on the number of samples and the type of analyses that were performed.  The three-year average was used to determine the rebate amount for 2017.

14. How does the rebate process work?

GMA will issue the set amount of the established member rebate at the end of the year if indeed the member utilized laboratory work using RQA, the third party vendor.

15. Why don’t GMA member companies get a rebate for consumer claims work?

The GMA Consumer claims lab has always charged a fee for its testing services that was not covered by membership dues.  Going forward, member companies will pay RQA directly for these services as opposed to GMA, while also receiving consulting from GMA on consumer claims sample testing as part of their membership dues.

16. Will the testing be of the same quality as the testing typically done at GMA?

Yes. When selecting a laboratory partner we considered their technical capability, quality systems, and data management systems.  We are confident RQA will deliver on all of these.  In addition, during the 2017 transition year, GMA staff will continue to monitor results of all RQA testing done for GMA members to ensure the quality is maintained.

17. What will happen to the people that worked in the GMA laboratory?

We are committed to helping all GMA employees affected by these changes related to the closing of the lab. Some of them are moving to other jobs at GMA within Science and Regulatory Affairs Department or the Legal team, and we will do everything we can to help the three other affected GMA employees find new positions. We spoke with the affected staff members several months ago about this change, and are providing them with a severance package as they leave us in December.

18. What will happen in 2018?

GMA will continue to provide technical non-lab based membership assistance to our members.  GMA will not reimburse GMA members for use of RQA, our third-party laboratory.  GMA will continue to monitor RQA for timely and quality data collection and reporting for our members.

19. What if a company wants to use a lab other than RQA for work now done by GMA?

GMA worked with a number of laboratories during the process and there were only a few which offered the range of services that we have historically provided.  If a company wishes to use another lab for testing, they are free to do so.  However, the GMA rebate for membership assistance laboratory analyses will only apply for testing done by RQA.