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Boosting productivity and quality control in food labs through LIMS

Food and beverage testing is an essential practice within food manufacturing. Not only fundamental for label accuracy, testing is necessary for product quality assurance, regulatory compliance and is an ultimate driving force behind consumer safety. 

Driven by a combination of regulatory developments, growth in the food processing industry and the globalisation of the food supply chain, food and beverage testing has been obliged to adapt to meet increasing demand.

As the need for testing grows, food and beverage labs must ensure that food safety, food quality and compliance are maintained.  Without a holistic, certified management process to accommodate such large sample volumes, quality control is left vulnerable.  

How can you safeguard the scalability and integrity of your testing? Whether you’re working towards your ISO 17025 accreditation or looking to streamline your testing process, the answer is simple: by implementing our food lab LIMS. 

 

The evolution of food safety testing

With the consumption of food being fundamental to our everyday lives, safety practices remain a crucial component of food manufacturing. Food testing laboratories are required to conduct a variety of assays on food and beverages, including canned and packaged foods, feeds and other related products.

The scope of testing required for regulatory compliance and quality assurance is extensive, from microbiological testing to chemical analysis for herbicides, pesticides, mycotoxins, allergens and even nutritional analysis and shelf-life evaluation.

Societal approaches to a safe food supply have been prevalent throughout history, reaching as far back as early civilizations who used salting to fermenting as standard food preservation practices.

Following concerns around contamination and spoilage, the 20th century saw the first legislative response to mislabelled and misrepresented food. Modernisation of these regulations followed outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, including the 1980s salmonella outbreak, which prompted a revision of the current food safety standards and later created the Food Standards Agency (FSA) within the UK.

Luckily for us in the present day, the 21st century has evolved its food safety approach to address changing circumstances, new scientific understandings and any potential public concerns. In turn, this brings a globalisation of food safety awareness and a strict level of regulatory compliance.

In the UK, this includes compliance with FSA standards and EU regulations as well as the implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) to identify and control potential hazards in each manufacturing process.

It is due to this strict regulatory framework that we not only have an abundance of food options (all with regulated use by dates) but can also be confident food is safe to consume. This is something that the majority of us in the modern world take entirely for granted.

With the substantial groundwork needed to accommodate such extensive demands, the food testing industry has become a colossal driving force within food manufacture. 

With the substantial groundwork needed to accommodate such extensive demands, the food testing industry has become a colossal driving force within food manufacture. Boasting an estimated annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% from 2024 to 2030, the industry is thriving. 

 

Growth provides new challenges for food and beverage labs 

Streamlining processes and workflows is fundamental for food and beverage testing labs. To be successful, they need to remain agile enough to adapt to a constantly changing regulatory landscape.

Complying with regulatory requirements whilst meeting market demands raises a challenge in itself. Not to mention the additional pressures such as ensuring fast turnaround times and reliable assay results, whilst maintaining a smooth operational workflow, all of which are fundamental to commercial success.

The management of sample data and its increasing traceability, transparency and audit trail requirements have undoubtedly necessitated processes which are far too complex for paper-based management methods, excel spreadsheets or outdated LIMS. Clinging to this old technology can only result in high susceptibility to error and unreliable testing and reporting. 

 

The importance of an ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation

If you are producing measurable food assay results, quality management to ISO standards is undoubtedly crucial to your practice. Laboratories must ensure the maintenance and calibration of their equipment, appropriate testing procedures, valid test methods, traceability of measurements to national standards and more.

The international standard ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation is given to laboratories with an effective quality management system in place to provide reliable testing and calibration results. Achieving this accreditation not only demonstrates robust processes but also provides an external validation of the credibility of your food and beverage lab.

 

Transforming your sample analysis with a food lab LIMS 

Updating your current systems with a food lab LIMS is the easiest way to streamline your sample workflows and optimise data management. Designed to aid food and beverage lab operations by safeguarding the quality and safety of each sample product, the AIS food lab LIMS offers end-to-end process efficiency enhancements including:

  • Optimised sample and asset management i.e. full sample tracking with results, reports, documents and certificates all stored in one area.
  • Assurance that analytical instruments are not used outside their calibration/maintenance date
  • Quality Control is incorporated, ensuring that failed batches cannot be accepted or reported.
  • Permissions to access the LIMS functions can be tailored for individuals or groups, ensuring no-one can perform a function that they are not trained for. This can include analysis methods, where users can be refused permission to enter/download data if there is no valid training record in the LIMS.

 

Enhance sample identification and management 

Automating routine laboratory processes undoubtedly saves time whilst reducing opportunities for human error through manual data entry.

The AIS Microbiology result entry module for example offers sample labelling with unique barcodes for the identification of culture plates, automatically accounting for plate dilutions and working out weighted averages to ensure the ideal plate count necessary for testing. By using barcodes as unique identifiers, accurate data capture is a certainty. For chemical analysis, data can be imported directly from instrument download files, which is particularly valuable for tests with large numbers of analytes, such as pesticides for example.

 

Confirmed regulatory compliance

With regulatory requirements placing additional pressure on labs to ensure full transparency throughout the testing process, the AIS food lab LIMS offers the ability to drastically improve traceability through accurate data management, documentation and reporting, and the creation of audit trails. AIS’s Core LIMS modules provide scheduling, data entry and reporting as standard, with modules including AQC and Instrument Interfacing for example, which can further your laboratory journey to achieving ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation.

Through its seamless handling of large data sets, the AIS food lab LIMS can contribute to the smooth development of the essential HACCP plan as well as identifying any abnormalities.

Regular monitoring of laboratory or manufacturing environment, processes, and supply chain plays a significant role in contamination prevention. Your food lab LIMS can be a vital part of creating, maintaining and monitoring contamination prevention processes which align with accepted best practices.

 

Transform your processes with AIS food lab LIMS

AIS LIMS is designed to help your food and beverage lab reach operational excellence; helping you reach quality assurance and regulatory compliance, and streamlining your testing processes can facilitate market demand and commercial targets with ease.

Speak to AIS Labs today.

Posted by Beth Taylor on 25-Mar-2024)

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