The 500m2 microbiology laboratory is in George, a city in the Western Cape Province.
The lab has been recommended for ISO 17025 accreditation by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS).
Accreditation covers 20 microbiological test methods and will be offered to the food industry primarily with some capabilities extending to areas such as cosmetics and/or household products.
There are 11 people employed full time: one lab manager (microbiologist), three admin staff, one sample registrar, one lab assistant and the rest are microbiologists.
Tighter regulations = increased need to ensure safe food
Valmé Stewart, managing director Mérieux NutriSciences South Africa, said strategy and planning started roughly a year ago with renovations of the building taking two months.
Stewart added the investment in the lab was in response to an increase in client demand for local testing services since opening its first George satellite office in 2011.
“It is solely a microbiology lab, but includes serology as well. Chemistry and raw milk testing will still be handled by other MXNS laboratories in South Africa (Cape Town, Midrand and Jefferys Bay), and some services will continue to be outsourced to our international centres of excellence,” she said.
“We have a prominent name in the region, due to our Cape Town lab (which has existed for 25+ years), however many of the food industry role players have been in need of faster turn-around times and reduced courier fees (when sending samples to CPT for testing).
“We have also been offering hygiene auditing and training services in the region for over five years and have built trusted relationships with many clients - so the move to George allowed us to better serve these clients as a local one-stop shop.
“Also, as food regulations in South Africa become tighter over time, there is an increased need to ensure food produced is safe and of a good quality.”
Dairy a standard offering for MXNS
Mérieux NutriSciences expanded its dairy testing capabilities by acquiring Lactolab last year.
After 26 years in the food industry in South Africa the firm is growing 23% year on year - which is evidence of a growing market and one with much more potential, said Stewart.
“Dairy (Raw Milk Testing) isn't a primary focus for us in South Africa. However, over the past three years, we have opened two raw milk labs (Jeffreys Bay and Cape Town) and acquired another (Lactolab) out of a need to diversify our testing services offering in South Africa,” she said.
“In other words, while it was a growth focus in past years, it is now a standard offering within our portfolio.
“Our South African expansion is driven by client needs and relevant opportunities. So, while the opening of the George laboratory is not directly linked to last year's purchase of Lactolab, both do fall within our greater growth strategy for the South African market.”
The firm opened a raw milk testing lab in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa in 2015 and invested in a chemistry lab in the country in 2013.
The George lab adds to a worldwide network that encompasses 7,000 employees and 100 labs across 21 countries.
Philippe Sans, president and CEO of Mérieux NutriSciences, said: “I am especially pleased to open this state-of-the-art laboratory that will enhance our ability in the region and is an illustration of our significant investment plan in new capacities to the benefits of our customers.”