​The Yardstick Self-Assessment Tool is designed for continued use over time to highlight areas for improvement and encourage partnerships within the food testing community.

Welcome to the interactive Yardstick Self Assessment Tool for Public Health Food Safety Testing. This tool was developed by an Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) task force and is intended to serve as a “gold standard,” or “Yardstick,” that public health laboratories can measure themselves against in order to identify potential areas for improvement. For the purpose of this tool, the term “public health laboratory” refers to any governmental laboratory that performs testing for foodborne pathogens, chemicals, toxins, or radiation in clinical, food, and/or environmental samples in support of public health.

Recommendations for best practices described in this document are based upon subject matter expert opinion, published guidelines such as the CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response and the 2003 APHL document, “A Recipe for Stronger Food Safety Testing Programs: Findings and Recommendations from the Food Safety Laboratory Capacity Assessment Project.” The Yardstick self-assessment tool is multi-faceted, outlining best practices for all categories (e.g., pathogens, chemicals and toxins) and areas (clinical, food and environmental) of foodborne illness testing. The tool allows you to analyze your responses over time and compare them against peer laboratory systems in order to identify areas for improvement. Your results will remain confidential, as will the results of other public health laboratories, and they will only be used collectively by APHL program staff to advocate for national food safety system improvements. Your laboratory is encouraged to re-visit the tool on an annual basis (or more regularly as needed) in order to monitor progress over time and identify new and/or ongoing areas for improvement. In all likelihood, no one laboratory will meet all of the recommendations that are outlined in the self-assessment tool. Additionally, a single laboratory may not be able to answer all of the assessment questions depending on the food safety testing structure within a jurisdiction. It is hoped that this tool will help develop, foster and improve partnerships that will strengthen foodborne illness testing within jurisdictions.

On behalf of the Yardstick task force and APHL, we encourage you to use this assessment tool in your laboratory. We hope you find it beneficial as your laboratory system searches for improvement in all areas of food safety and foodborne illness testing. We thank you for your time and commitment to this assessment and for your continued dedication and contributions to foodborne illness testing and surveillance within your jurisdiction.

The interactive Yardstick Self-Assessment Tool is available as both a PDF and an online tool.

For more information contact, Kirsten Larson, MPHManager, Food Safety, 240.485.2759, kirsten.larson@aphl.org.