ISO 17025 Certified Testing Lab Not Required to Provide Raw Testing Data?

ISO/IEC 17025:2017 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories

Question

I have sent a sample for testing to a lab which is ISO certified, they have provided me with the test results, however, when I asked them for the Raw Data to support the testing performed as well as to keep it on record for the future investigational use, the testing lab refuses to provide the raw data, stating that we are not a GMP lab and as an ISO certified lab, we are not obliged to provide the raw data. They say the raw data could be shown to the regulatory authorities. Is this true?

The contract testing lab we mentioned is certified to ISO 17025.

Answer

Since the laboratory is “accredited” to ISO/IEC 17025, it will be useful to review a few relevant passages from that standard (note that the term “certified” or “registered” is usually used for organizations registered or certified to ISO 9001 quality management systems).

ISO/IEC 17025 Clause 4.13.2.1 states:

“The laboratory shall retain records of original observations, derived data and sufficient information to establish an audit trail, calibration records, staff records and a copy of each test report or calibration certificate issued, for a defined period. The records for each test or calibration shall contain sufficient information to facilitate, if possible, identification of factors affecting the uncertainty and to enable the test or calibration to be repeated under conditions as close as possible to the original. The records shall include the identity of personnel responsible for the sampling, performance of each test and/or calibration and checking of results.”

ISO/IEC 17025 Clause 5.10.1 paragraph 3 states:

“In the case of tests or calibrations performed for internal customers, or in the case of a written agreement with the customer, the results may be reported in a simplified way. Any information listed in 5.10.2 to 5.10.4 which is not reported to the customer shall be readily available in the laboratory which carried out the tests and/or calibrations.”

Further, ISO/IEC 17025 Clause 5.10.4.2 paragraph 2 states:

“When a statement of compliance with a specification is made omitting the measurement results and associated uncertainties, the laboratory shall record those results and maintain them for possible future reference.”

The ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories are required to retain test results when they do not report the results on the test certificate (or report) to the customer. A word of caution: The laboratory may have a record retention policy (it should be documented in their quality system per ISO/IEC 17025 Clause 4.13.1.2). Ensure that future record requests are made within the record retention policy period!

In the future, it would be best to specify in the purchase requisition what test data the customer requires from the test laboratory. This forms the basis for a contractual requirement and can be contested legally if the laboratory does not fulfill the customer’s requirements if it accepted the purchase requisition (This would apply to both ISO 9001 registered and ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories).

The laboratory’s other argument about “GMP lab and as an ISO certified lab, they are not obliged to provide the raw data” is not consistent with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025. The customer should file the refusal to provide data as a complaint to the laboratory under the clauses cited and ask the laboratory for corrective action under ISO/IEC 17025 Clause 4.8 (complaints) and 4.11 (corrective action).

If an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratory refutes to provide corrective action under the requirements stated in this article, it is possible to escalate this complaint to their accrediting body.

Dilip A Shah
ASQ Fellow, ASQ CQE, CQA, CCT
President, E = mc3 Solutions,
Technical Director, Sapphire Proficiency Testing Services.
Past Chair, ASQ Measurement Quality Division (2012-2013)
Former Member of the A2LA Board of Directors (2006-2014)

Terminology for Inspected Material (GMP, ISO 13485)

Pharmaceutical sampling

Q: There is often confusion with the labeling of purchased materials  after they have been “inspected, tested and/or verified” according to good manufacturing practice (GMP)
requirements.  Once out of quarantine, are purchased materials labeled as accepted, approved or released?  I’ve had auditors and inspectors tell me all three.

A: Either term (accepted, approved, or released) is appropriate and commonly used.  It would appear that the auditors are voicing an opinion and shouldn’t be. Neither ISO 13485:2003: Medical devices — Quality management systems — Requirements for
regulatory purposes or FDA’s quality system regulation (QSR) specify what language is to be used.

ISO 13485:2003, clause 7.5.3.3 status identification, states:

“The organization shall identify the product status with respect to monitoring and measurement requirements.  The identification of product status shall be maintained throughout production, storage, installation and servicing of the product to ensure that only product that has passed the required inspections and test … is dispatched, used or installed.”

FDA 21 CFR 820.86 acceptance status requires:

“Each manufacturer shall identify by suitable means the acceptance status of product, to indicate the conformance or nonconformance of product with acceptance criteria. The identification of acceptance status shall be maintained throughout manufacturing, packaging, labeling, installation, and serving of the product to ensure that only product which has passed the required acceptance activities is distributed, used, or installed.”

The requirement should be clear for purchased materials: identify so that only those materials that passed acceptance activities are allowed to be used.  Neither the standard or regulation states how the material is to be identified.  That is up to the manufacturer to define in its operating procedure(s).

My personal recommendation is to use the terms “accept/reject” at receiving and during in-process, then use the terms “release/hold” to mean the final product is or is not to be released for distribution.  But any similar terms are fine as long as they are consistently used throughout the quality system and personnel understand the requirement that they can only use product that passed their acceptance activities.

Jim Werner
Voting member to the U.S. TAG to ISO TC 176 Quality Management and Quality Assurance
Medical Device Quality Compliance (MDQC), LLC.
ASQ Senior Member
ASQ CQE, CQA, RABQSA Lead QMS Assessor

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