Whether it’s a jar of tomato sauce or a bottle of soda, delivering a safe and consistently high-quality product is nothing short of miraculous. Between regulations imposed externally to a brand’s selfimposed quality control processes, there are many checkpoints—some would say fail points—along the path from farm to fork or stream to straw.
The farm to fork pathway is complex, and without a powerful, yet efficient system of record it would be impossible for a brand to manage quality and ensure compliance while still leaving some margin for profit. Thankfully, that’s precisely what a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) does.
Traceability is the Key
Traceability hinges on the thorough documentation of the entire production and distribution chain, so that if evidence emerges about contamination a product can, in the words of U.S. Food & Drug Administration, be “traced back to a common source or forward through distribution channels.”
A good product tracking system enables rapid response in case a foodborne illness occurs or a contaminated product is identified. Any delay in the process increases the chance of public harm and, of course, harm to the producer’s brand.
A LIMS is central to a “good product tracking system.” It not only captures and manages vital data at multiple stages of the production process, it also enables information to be stored securely for nearly instant access when needed. And, because the LIMS enables manufacturers to capture data electronically, sample data isn’t prone to errors common in paper-based systems. From ingredient identification analysis and microbiology tests to pesticide analysis and foreign body testing, the LIMS tracks everything so that producers can monitor and report on complex processes with a few mouse clicks.
Overseeing Batch Relationships
Thermo Scientific LIMS solutions enable producers to effectively manage batch relationships between raw materials, processed materials and packaged goods, enabling analysts to identify which batches are affected by any contamination and automatically suspend release of a product during investigation. LIMS are designed to manage and control the quality assurance process, organizing and storing analytical data and facilitating the conversion of data to usable information. This process is fully automated, ensuring that any samples that fall outside acceptable limits are highlighted, prompting immediate investigation before product has been released to consumers.
LIMS Solutions in Action
Molkerei Alois Müller (UK) is a European-based leader in dairy products. The Müller UK site specializes in yogurt products, from low-fat offerings to yogurt and cereal combinations.
Transitioning from a manual, paperbased system to one that automates nearly every quality control (QC) sample check and reporting process was a massive undertaking for Müller UK. But with its UK production exceeding 1.8 billion pots of yogurt per year, the company had reached a scale that could no longer support a manual system. Thermo Scientific LIMS was implemented to help manage this growth.
For Müller UK labs, a LIMS is much more than a laboratory data system. It is a reputation management and growth management solution, enabling the company to ensure consistent quality, product safety and industry compliance while continuing to stretch toward its growth goals.
The LIMS offers considerable benefits:
- Less error-prone paperwork and expedited testing
- Real-time, automated entry and processing of laboratory data
- Fast access to results without requiring a high degree of technical expertise
- Real-time availability of analytical results, which has increased productivity and efficiency
- Immediate notification of any non-conforming samples, enabling quarantine of batches before they are released to customers
The Right Choice
Food recalls impact bottom line, erode brand value and reduce shareholder value, so the traceability of raw materials and ingredients used across food production and distribution process is essential. A LIMS provides a level of confidence that the brand and company revenues will not be adversely affected by any nonconformance issues and reduces the likelihood that contaminated product will reach the consumer. Automation, reliability, security and defensibility are all just words until an incident occurs. While the benefits of a LIMS go far beyond traceability alone – the impact on quality and consistency cannot be overstated – the measure of protection it provides each day is vital to industry as its products make the miraculous journey from farm to fork or stream to straw.
For more information about LIMS in food and beverage production, visit www.thermoscientific.com/foodsafetyresources
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