July 30, 2021

AOAC INTERNATIONAL is proud to announce it has been named a 2021 Power of A Silver Award Winner by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). The award recognizes the AOAC Research Institute (AOAC RI)’s “Emergency Response Validation (ERV) for Methods that Detect SARS-CoV-2 on Stainless Steel Surfaces,” or COVID-19 ERV Program.

The Power of A Awards recognize and celebrate the extraordinary contributions associations make to society by enriching lives, creating a competitive workforce, preparing society for the future, driving innovation and making a better world.

As businesses began to develop plans for safely reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an immediate need for reliable and trusted tests for detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants on environmental surfaces. This was of particular importance to food supply chain and retail businesses concerned with protect­ing workers and consumers.

AOAC recognized the need to address this analytical aspect of virus transmission and was well-positioned to bring together and engage the many elements of the food safety community to provide trust in method performance and obtained results.

In launching the COVID-19 ERV Program, AOAC gathered viral experts from around the world to develop a standard evaluation protocol. Then, AOAC developed an ERV program capable of validating up to ten test kits simultaneously; nine test kit companies submitted theirs for review. AOAC recruited an independent laboratory to evaluate the test kits using the standard evaluation protocol. The experts reviewed the collected data to determine if the tests met the evaluation protocol requirements. Approved test kits were granted AOAC Performance Tested methods certification.

This method validation program broke new ground by implementing “in silico” (in silicon) analysis to harness the power of modern databases and computational power in biological experiments. Test kit manufacturers compared the SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequence targeted by their test kit against a database of whole genome sequences of target and non-target organisms. This approach is more comprehensive, faster, and less expensive. It also does not require obtaining and shipping virus sample materials, which could be difficult and potentially dangerous.

The certified methods provide confidence that food processors and businesses can establish safe working environments for their employees as pandemic restrictions are loosened and more employees return to the workplace. Thank you to ASAE for this recognition and to our RI staff, members, and stakeholders who contributed to this ERV effort!