The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) is transitioning its Coffee Testing Laboratory in Lugogo to the new ISO/IEC 17025: 2017 standard issued by the International Standardization Organization (ISO) under the European Union funded Market Access Upgrade (MARKUP) project for the coffee and cocoa value chain development in Uganda.
The International Standard ISO/IEC17025 is used for the accreditation of competence of testing and calibration laboratories worldwide. According to ISO, all accredited laboratories in the world are supposed to transition to the new standard which will replace the ISO Standard ISO 17025:2005 in June 2021.
One of the result areas of the MARKUP project Programme estimate focuses on upgrading coffee certification and quality control services of the UCDA laboratories to achieve ISO 17025:2017 accreditation. After a competitive selection and evaluation using EU guidelines, ESQ Cert Uganda, an ISO Certification company, was awarded the contract for consultancy services to spearhead the process of accreditation. The process shall involve reviewing and upgrading the current laboratory documentation to meet the requirements of the new ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard, capacity building of staff and training of internal auditors who will periodically verify effective implementation across the entire laboratory operations.
UCDA is working with ESQ Cert Uganda not only to build staff capacity but also to put in place systems for a smooth transition.
Currently, UCDA is recognized against the old version of ISO/IEC standard ISO 17025:2005. However, under MARKUP, ESQ Cert consultants will provide technical support to upgrade to the new version of ISO/IEC 17025:2017 which covers all activities of the UCDA laboratory.
Speaking during a 3-day capacity training building session for UCDA staff on Thursday 4 February 2021, Edmund Kananura, the UCDA Director Quality and Regulatory Services, said, “The accreditation will boost confidence in the results from our laboratories. It will also ensure that our laboratory operations are aligned with international processes. This will have a positive impact on our exports and build the image of Uganda coffee in global markets.”
According to Jean Atamba, a consultant from ESQ Cert Uganda Limited, accredited laboratories are recognized for their competence and abilities globally. This helps them to improve and monitor the operational process and to satisfy customer requirements.
The updated standard covers technical changes that have developed since 17025:2005 was adopted. The main changes incorporated in the 17025:2017 standard include focusing on the results of the processes instead of the list of actions “to be done”; better accounts for electronic forms of documentation, communication, and data storage and incorporating a risk-based approach. In addition, the scope of 17025:2017 has been revised to cover all laboratory activities including testing, calibration and the sampling associated with subsequent calibration and testing.
The ISO 17025 standard specifies the general requirements for the competence, impartiality and consistent operation of laboratories and is applicable to all organizations performing laboratory activities.