Syndicated food lab-testing network. #bigidea

How do we as consumers truly know what's in the food we eat?  The bad news is that we really don't know.  Weak standards such as 'organic' are more about practices than what's actually lurking in our food.  And at that, consumers are still at the mercy of the honesty of the entire supply chain.

What if there were a way for much of our food supply to be lab tested, on a periodic basis?  Certainly, lab testing is too expensive and unscalable for any one person to test food products that they care about.  But if interested parties syndicate via a lab-testing network, then cost and scalability become more tenable.  This could be done at any level, from testing mass produced items at large grocery stores, to products at local farmers' markets.

To sketch out how the concept would work, imagine that an online site allows users to sign up and donate a small amount per month, akin to Patreon.  Users then suggest products to test, perhaps by UPC code scans (mass produced items) or even by location and description (as for farmers' market items).  When the system determines that there is enough funding and interest to support the testing of a given item, a sample set of random users are selected to effect the testing.  They take samples of the food item, send them to a prescribed set of approved labs (with the details of the item anonymized), receive the results and then enter the results into the database.

Obviously the funding model could be more sophisticated, allowing people to donate more money and have a bigger input into what products get tested.  And some streamlining could be done; if lab results are standardized into a scan-friendly format, then an app could upload the results straight into the database without error (or the lab could export results directly to the service).  Perhaps a free account level could be offered to users in exchange for doing more leg work of sending samples to the lab.

A great example of a high quality lab that would be a great fit for the short list of approved labs, is CWC Labs, pioneered by Mike Adams (a.k.a. the "health ranger" of NaturalNews.com).  This is the lab that got me thinking of the idea, especially after hearing of some phenomenal upgrades in testing capabilities.  CWC Labs holds the international ISO 17025 accreditation.  A number of high quality labs would be helpful, as well as having multiple sample taken by different people, to provide redundancy and safeguards.

I hope you enjoyed my #bigidea and are inspired to either work on something similar or surface your own ideas.  The World needs solutions.