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Turlock's growing food processing niche
Certified Laboratories expands operations, hires local science grads
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Alex Acuna and Angela Huesca read plates in the Certified Laboratories food testing facility. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

When former mayor John Lazar expressed a vision of making Turlock the “Silicon Valley of Food Processing,” it was with companies like Certified Laboratories in mind.

The food safety company, which offers microbiological and chemical testing for food processing, moved to Turlock in 2012. Last year the company hired 20 new employees, 80 percent of which are graduates of California State University, Stanislaus, and two weeks ago the company broke ground on a 7,000 square foot building expansion.

"The Central Valley and Turlock are growing," said Microbiology Manager Jaspreet Walia about the food processing industry.

According to Walia, a lot of that growth can be attributed to nuts — almonds in particular. Certified Laboratories takes in 20 to 30 almond samples each day testing mainly for aflatoxin, a fungus that is found in tree nuts. California almonds must have a certificate of aflatoxin testing before being exported to European Union countries. With the state growing 85 percent of the world's almonds, that's a lot of nuts to test.

Certified Laboratories is about to get even busier, along with the industry as a whole, with the significant expansion of food safety requirements enacted in the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The historic legislation directs the Food and Drug Administration, working with a wide range of public and private partners, to build a new system of food safety oversight – one focused on applying, more comprehensively than ever, the best available science and good common sense to prevent the problems that can make people sick, according to Food and Drugs Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.

Certified Laboratories is not only building more lab space to serve its clients' needs, the company is also working with the local university to ensure an educated workforce is available.

"We have an energetic, young and talented group here in Turlock," said Laboratory Director Gordon Brock. "The key is working with the schools. California State University, Stanislaus is open to us coming to talk with their biology and chemistry students."

The collaborative effort that CSU Stanislaus has found with Certified Laboratories to put students to work after graduation is exactly what the City of Turlock's Economic Development Strategic Plan calls for under its Education core goal.

Certified Laboratories is also making connections with other industry companies and professionals by hosting the Central Valley Institute of Food Technologists conference at its Turlock site on Tuesday. This will be the first time Certified Laboratories has hosted the professional organization for the advancement of food science and technology.

The conference will include a tour of the facility and featured speaker Dr. Rick Falkenberg, chief technical officer at the Certified Food Safety Center, a division of Certified Laboratories. Falkenberg will talk about the Food Safety Modernization Act and how it will affect the industry.

For more information about Certified Laboratories or the Central Valley Institute of Food Technologists conference, email