You might ask yourself “How does shipping play into Best Sample – Best Result”? Let me answer that for you… a lot! To be honest, shipping is one of the most important things to do correctly. It is where all of your testing starts (besides the initial sampling process).
Let's start off with boxing your samples. Whether you send samples through UPS, FedEx, USPS, or even a courier service like Speedy Delivery – carriers do not always treat your packages with white gloves. Many times they travel down a bumpy conveyor, get thrown in the truck, and ride along many twists and turns. Essentially, it is important to pack your samples for a roller coaster ride.
How do you do this? Get yourself a durable box. For refrigerated products, we recommend ThermoSafe boxes. They are strong, come in many different sizes, and keep your samples chilled (if you have ice packs). For dry products, if the box is sturdy you're golden!
This brings us to the next item – the “fillers”. These are the things that keep the insides of your box and your products secure and chilled. The two main fillers we suggest: bubble wrap and ice packs (for refrigerated product).
Bubble Wrap: It is more than just a fun thing to pop; because, be honest… we have all played with bubble wrap more than once. It is addictive (there is even an App…). BUT for this instance, it is used to keep your products secure and not jostled around in the box. Even if the delivery driver has a wicked right curve and throws your box around, the bubble wrap will keep it safe! Fill as much empty space as you can.
Ice Packs: Ice packs are a necessity for all products that need to be kept cold. Follow a few easy steps to ensure they are used effectively and do not hinder your samples.
- Include enough ice packs to keep your samples chilled. Typically for a small box use 1 or 2 small ice packs, where larger boxes need around 4. If you can get large ice packs, it’s even better (they melt much more slowly).
- Keep track of the season – if it's summer, you may need to include an additional ice pack. Sometimes the truck drivers leave boxes in their truck overnight and they can get toasty.
- NEVER let your samples come in direct contact with your ice packs. If they do, it can freeze your product and can invalidate your results. Cold temperatures slow bacteria growth where freezing samples can provide inaccurate counts. It is best to keep a layer of cardboard or bubble wrap in between the ice packs and products.
Now that your box is set, it is time to get it to your carrier. This is typically the easy part - ship it next day air (NDA) and label it properly. Easy, right? The only catch that can cause an issue is Saturday Delivery.
If you are shipping your samples on a Friday for Saturday delivery – MAKE SURE you select Saturday delivery and label the box with a big “Saturday Delivery” sticker. Otherwise they may miss your box and it may not get to the lab until Monday - warm, melted, and unable to be tested.
Last but not least, know what your time frames for testing are. What do I mean by that, you ask? From the point you collect your samples, a timer starts. When that timer expires, it is past the point of being testable. We cannot guarantee accurate results after that point due to potential growth/death of the target organism. Two main topics I will call out will be environmental and water samples.
Environmental Sponges/Swabs have a target window of 72 hours for testing. In a previous blog (or if you have taken a Cherney College course) we consider environmental sponges as "ambulances". Once you swab and pick up that injured organism it is carried to the lab , which we call the "hospital". It only has 72 hours to make it there before it expires or dies. Making sure you get those samples to the lab in that window ensures valid results, avoids retests, and avoids wasting money and supplies.
Water Samples have a target window of 24 hours. This has the same reasoning as Environmental – but a much smaller window. We highly recommend collecting the sample as close to shipping time as possible, or even driving the samples to the lab right away.
All in all, the above is why shipping is such a key part of Best Sample – Best Result. For more information or tips – feel free to contact our Client Services Team or our Technical Team at Cherney Micro. (firstname.lastname@example.org)