​The Yardstick Self-Assessment Tool is designed 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 APHL task force as a “gold standard,” or “Yardstick,” for public health laboratories to use as a benchmark in identifying potential areas for improvement.

The tool employs the term “public health laboratory” to refer 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 are based upon expert opinion and published guidelines such as the CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response and the 2003 APHL report, “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 of foodborne illness testing (e.g., pathogens, chemicals and toxins) and areas (clinical, food and environmental). It allows you to analyze your responses over time and compare them against peer laboratory systems to identify areas for improvement. Your results will remain confidential, as will the results of other public health laboratories, and 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 annually (or more regularly as needed) to monitor progress and identify new and/or ongoing areas for improvement. It is unlikely that a laboratory will meet all the recommendations outlined in the tool. Moreover, some laboratories may not be able to answer all the assessment questions, depending on the food safety testing structure in their jurisdiction. It is hoped that this tool will help develop, foster and improve partnerships to strengthen foodborne illness testing within jurisdictions.

On behalf of the Yardstick Task Force and APHL, we encourage you to use this assessment tool. We hope you find it beneficial as your laboratory system seeks to improve 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 Yardstick Self-Assessment Tool is available as both a PDF and an online tool.

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