Calibration may not be the first thing you think of when you are planning your food testing and food analysis strategy, but the fact is that you cannot properly perform food safety measures when you do not know if your measurements are correct.

If you got on a scale and it said you weighed 20 pounds less than you thought, you might be surprised but not question it too much. But if you went to a doctor the next day and saw what her scale said, you’d probably start to question the accuracy of your scale at home.

Your scale at home might not have always been off, but over time, measurement instruments like scales, thermometers, and humidity indicators can become less and less accurate.

Maintaining the accuracy of the food testing and food analysis tools you use in your facility means keeping a regular calibration schedule. While each facility may have different needs, following are a few critical steps towards creating and sustaining a regular food testing tool calibration program.

Creating a Calibration Schedule

The two most important parts of calibration are accuracy and regularity. It is not enough to calibrate thermometers once a year or “every so often.” Instead, there needs to a schedule for the calibration of each piece of equipment that requires calibration, and that schedule should be adhered to by every department. Keeping a single spreadsheet that lists every different piece of equipment alongside the date when that equipment was last calibrated is the easiest way to ensure that the procedures are ongoing.

Assigning a Calibration Manager

In addition to a central organization system, having one person in charge of that spreadsheet (or other tracking system) is a good idea. While managers of individual sectors will still be responsible for the calibration itself, identifying a single person who can be responsible for enforcing calibration procedures and keeping proper records makes it that much more likely that the right tests will happen at the right time. Further, this person can be held accountable for keeping those devices which do not meet calibration standards out of operation until such point as they can be repaired. In general, centralizing the calibration process as much as possible is ideal.

Send Out Equipment When Necessary

In-house calibration is simply not possible for all equipment. You should leave room in your calibration process to send out that equipment that needs calibration at a professional facility. Some equipment that might require this type of calibration includes scales, load cells, or temperature-indicating devices.

Maintaining Calibration Records

Even though food testing regulations often do not indicate precisely how often a facility must perform calibration procedures, what they do require is meticulous record keeping. When inspection time comes around, inspectors will expect to see records of when you performed your last calibrations, particularly if the inspector’s measurements do not align with yours. In addition to an easy to access record of calibration procedures, you should also arrange to tag equipment with its calibration date, so that it is clearly visible upon inspection.