May 09, 2019
Food and beverage providers have a great responsibility to ensure the release of safe and healthy food products to the tables of consumers. With the globalization of the food supply chain in recent years, this responsibility has grown more complex as the progression from raw materials to production and packaging involves an increased number of players. Furthermore, public demand for a wide variety of foods that are available year-round create more opportunity for error. An estimated 1 in 6 people in the United States experience varying degrees of foodborne illness each year, making contamination issues and food recalls a significant public health concern. They can also severely impact a company’s brand integrity from costly and damaging litigation and public scrutiny.
Food safety practices are implemented to minimize potential contamination of food products and prevent breaches in public health. Not only must supply chains include product safety testing from beginning to end but must also provide traceability of products for all stages of production, processing, and distribution. Given the importance of food safety, suppliers are faced with the challenge of developing a robust production system while demonstrating compliance with strict government regulations to ensure quality products from farm to fork.
Regulations are integral to food safety protocols, developed to monitor and confirm product quality through batch traceability, quality assurance measures and effective incident prevention. One such guideline is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that outlines specific actions required at various control points along the global food supply chain. FSMA redesigned food safety regulations, moving from incident response to prevention and risk assessment.
FSMA regulations require proper certifications and supplier verifications, adherence to current good manufacturing practice and hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls, mitigation strategies for food adulteration protection, and standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of food products.
By approaching food safety from a prevention perspective, additional checkpoints and data requirements enable more in-depth investigation of each supply chain process. However, implementing sample testing along an entire food supply chain creates silos of data that need to be organized, analyzed, and stored for easy access and reporting capabilities. A laboratory information management system (LIMS) becomes a crucial tool that can integrate and interpret data from various checkpoints into one system for comprehensive monitoring and analysis.
Contaminant testing using a variety of tools from liquid, gas and ion chromatography to mass spectrometry generates massive amounts of data to be analyzed before a product can move forward along the pipeline. Producers and suppliers can implement a LIMS to share information and ensure full traceability of products for better incident control and decision-making capabilities. Additionally, reports produced and records stored in a LIMS are easily accessible for auditors to confirm proper certifications and compliance.
Integration of a LIMS into food safety practices provides a complete view of processes from chain of custody controls, data collection and management, and quality assurance parameters. This supports regulatory compliance and increases efficiency and productivity by streamlining processes and enhancing visibility. By following a preventive outlook and implementing the proper tools for compliance, producers and suppliers can maintain their reputation while providing quality food products to the public.