Tune-up Food Traceability

Food Traceability using LIMS

January 08, 2020

The globalization of food supply chains has created food safety issues that did not exist a few decades ago, and which continue to grow in significance. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 600 million people get sick, and 420,000 die, due to contamination from bacteria (by far the most common foodborne pathogen), viruses, and chemical adulterants in foods. Most of these incidents occur in developing nations due to poor sanitation and suspect food handling practices, but the spillover into developed countries is significant and troubling.

The many discrete steps leading from farm to table, including harvest, processing, packaging, shipping, and storage, are discrete and independent. Yet within those activities, significant opportunities exist for Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) to provide producers and distributors with end-to-end documentation of all relevant processing, handling, and testing activities.

Considering the global impact of the international food trade, manual record-keeping for incoming and outgoing materials, and their residence within the food processing facility becomes an unacceptable, and ultimately unsustainable, source of error. Similarly, during manufacturing, the need for security and regulatory compliance, plus access to real-time data, demands a unifying, centralizing repository for batch and process data. Consequently, LIMS has become an essential ingredient for food safety, testing, and quality laboratories.

Food companies exporting to international markets must maintain a Food Safety Management Plan that complies with regulations applicable to both local jurisdiction and those into which they intend to sell. With the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 in the United States, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) became mandatory for food producers selling to U.S. markets. HACCP is an internationally recognized method of identifying and managing food safety risks through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production through finished product consumption.

Given the competitive and global nature of the food industry, and the often varying requirements for regulatory compliance among countries and even localities, management of food safety data becomes critical. Suppliers must be prepared to provide not just quality products, but to demonstrate ingredient traceability and real-time transparency for all operations and logistics.

HACCP has been around for decades, but its execution has typically been based on paper-based notes and forms completed by hand, making adherence to HACCP both costly and labor-intensive.

LIMS have evolved to provide these benefits in alignment with both global and local regulations. LIMS streamline risk mitigation and hazard prevention, while providing the usual advantages of paperless record-keeping, centralized data storage, and access through wired or wireless devices located both onsite and remotely.

Through LIMS, food processors can construct and maintain food production databases incorporating data from all suppliers and processing steps, assuring traceability for all materials entering or leaving the facility. Monitoring and mapping are possible for all entry locations, weighing stations, and processing points, which may include assays at various points for wholesomeness, composition, quality, and potential sources of contamination. Automating and centralizing these activities in electronic form assists quality and food safety teams in identifying and tracing potential hazards before the product leaves the plant.

CloudLIMS (Wilmington, DE), a LIMS product with a dedicated module for food producers, automates quality control and in-process testing of food products for both independent and in-house food testing labs. CloudLIMS manages complex analytical workloads through registration of tests, assigning test in-charges, and recording a test’s results. CloudLIMS software is based on a flexible data model that allows users to configure and store the laboratory information they need, manage chain of custody, and generate reports in the shortest time. Built on a cloud platform, CloudLIMS can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and deploys quickly.

Due to the increased complexity and sophistication of global food markets, food growers and processors have the obligation to ensure traceability, timely and appropriate responses to potential safety issues, and overall accountability. In this environment, hand-written records simply won’t do. Through its food manufacturing module and cloud-based deployment, CloudLIMS streamlines and automates the acquisition and storage of key product, supplier, and analytical data in a format that is ready to use anywhere and any time.

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