The Monitor

Production Process Insights

Automatic sampling or recalls: Your choice

Posted by AJ Naber on 2/25/16 3:47 PM
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Why you owe it to your customers to obtain representative samples

Hardly a month goes by when there isn’t a major food recall in the news. There are huge costs – in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted product, and the negative impact to brand equity and consumer trust – associated with each recall.

Tainted food has real implications. Consumers can become extremely sickened and even die. Recently, a former peanut company executive was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a deadly salmonella outbreak, the stiffest punishment ever handed out to a producer in a foodborne illness case. The outbreak killed nine Americans and sickened hundreds more – and triggered one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.

Avoiding Food Recalls

Above all, as a food or beverage producer, you want to avoid a recall. In addition to posing an alarming public health risk, food and beverage recalls can cost producers and processors reputation, untold amounts of money, and plummeting stock prices that may not recover. Product quality and traceability is everything, and you need confidence in your data to assure and verify that quality.

In addition to posing an alarming public health risk, food and beverage recalls can cost producers and processors reputation, untold amounts of money, and plummeting stock prices that may not recover.

Obtaining accurate data depends on and starts with obtaining a truly representative sample for analysis. And that means automatic sampling – not hand sampling with a scoop, shovel or other basic method. For safety and quality, food and beverages must be sampled automatically while in their production environment, whether that is a process pipeline, pneumatic convey line, gravity chute, hopper, bin, screw or belt conveyor, or even a milk truck.

The Benefits of Automatic Sampling

This automatic sampling process continuously creates a composite sample representative of the entire batch or lot, so quality assurance managers can be sure they are analyzing a truly representative sample for accurate results. While chemical and physical properties of each food can vary, even between samples that originate from the same batch, representative sampling and analysis can identify this variability and allow for adjustments and corrections to the process.

Automated sampling provides the inherent benefits of automation, with a composite sample easily and safely obtained with no direct human interface or risks of cross-contamination. With the sample distanced from the operator, its integrity is preserved. Plus, automatic sampling increases efficiency over manual sampling, as the product line does not need to be stopped for sampling, production can continue, and plant personnel can tend to other important tasks.

Automatic samplers are controlled by a sampler controller, which contains a PLC (programmable logic controller) that can be programmed for continuous composite control, batch control and flow proportional control, all with remote operation. For further automation efficiency, the sampler controller can be incorporated with existing equipment and systems so sampling can begin automatically without operator engagement. This type of sample automation reduces risk and increases process efficiency.

Because a sample is representative of the entire process, analysis of that sample can alert plant management of contamination or upstream equipment failure. This means issues can be identified and fixed faster before they affect end product. Knowing that the sample obtained at a final critical control point is truly representative also allows for quicker and more efficient product loading and movement of product from the packaging stage to distribution.

Automatic Sampling Prevents Recalls

Automatic sampling in various parts of a process can determine exactly where in the process contamination is occurring. For example, the finished product of a national dip producer was found to potentially contain listeria, which triggered an expensive national product recall. The company reviewed their processes, determined that the packaging was at fault, and took steps to ensure quality and safety – by becoming a customer and purchasing several Sentry® ISOLOK® MSE automatic samplers. These samplers are designed for sampling high viscosity liquids and slurry such as dips, toothpaste, peanut butter, tomato paste and similar materials. Because customers no longer solely rely on random retail sample collection, the sampler help ensure that a product recall never again will be necessary.

In terms of avoiding recalls, implementing a sampling solution appropriate to each food or beverage application provides immediate ROI – meaning that if even one recall is prevented, the sampling solution has more than paid for itself. All foods and beverages can and should be sampled automatically to ensure quality and safety – and to keep your company brand out of negative headlines.

Learn more about our food and beverage sampling solutions.

Trial information from the New York Post.

Automatic Sampling: Why It's Essential for Food & Beverages

Topics: Food & Beverage

Written by AJ Naber

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AJ likes all kinds of foods and beverages. Not only interested in consuming them, he also offers expertise in engineering and installation of process systems for the dairy, food, beverage and brewing industries.