The Monitor

Production Process Insights

Collecting your food & beverage samples to meet QA lab standards

Posted by AJ Naber on 7/21/16 1:27 PM
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Beverages undergoing automatic sampling

In any industry, quality assurance testing and analytical data is only as good as the sample tested. Hand sampling poses challenges for food and beverage manufacturers that can skew testing results and introduce food safety concerns that put products, operators and consumers at risk.

True representative samples require a certain amount of control, from the placement and number of grabs to the environment and volume of material collected. Hand sampling, by nature, invites human error. Automated sampling, on the other hand, ensures equipment-based consistency.

Let’s compare the two methods within the context of common food & beverage quality assurance pain points.

Imprecision error

Hand sampling:

The number and size of samples taken can play an instrumental role in obtaining a quality representative sample. The number of samples taken can typically be managed through hand sampling; however, the sample size is more arbitrary, based on the experience, skill and attention to detail paid by the person taking the sample.

Automatic representative sampling:

Automatic samplers virtually eliminate imprecision. The equipment can be programmed to conduct incremental sampling, meaning the grabs occur at the same times of day and a consistent number is taken based on your specific needs. This automated process not only ensures quality samples for the lab, but also that the samples taken are representative of the entire lot of ingredient or product stream being tested.

Sample bias

Hand sampling:

Operators can unintentionally bias a hand sample. They may not be standing in the same location from one sample to the next, and the depth at which they draw the sample may also vary. Using spigots or valves helps in terms of location consistency. However, the operator may not open the spigot or valve the same amount every time, which interferes with the flow and accuracy of the grab.

Automatic representative sampling:

An automatic sampler can control sample bias in several important ways: it remains at a fixed location, and always grabs at the exact place and depth within the process stream regardless of the number of times it takes a sample. As with imprecision error, consistency is critical to managing sample bias and can only be accurately accomplished with automatic sampling.


The food and beverage industry is stringently regulated, as food safety is paramount in protecting consumers, suppliers and manufacturers. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), some of the industry’s governing legislation, along with research conducted in part by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has become increasingly focused on prevention of food contamination. Likewise, manufacturers have become diligent in chain-of-custody, obtaining certificates of analysis from suppliers guaranteeing pathogen-free ingredients and products.

Hand sampling:

Given the warranted emphasis placed on food safety, sampling takes on added importance. When food manufacturers need to supply documentation guaranteeing the accuracy of analytical results, data integrity is critical. Our experiences have shown that hand sampling procedures can easily contaminate the sample (and final product) and would thus have a difficult time withstanding the scrutiny of regulatory bodies.

Automatic representative sampling:

Unlike hand sampling, automatic sampling isolates operators from the process and the acquired sample.  Automatic sampling equipment provides food and beverage producers with procedural elements that aid in proving that the sample has not been compromised.  Both sample and product integrity can be preserved when entrusting an automatic sampler.

The importance of the testing that process engineers and quality assurance professionals are tasked with accomplishing cannot be overstated, especially in the food and beverage industry. The Sentry® brand of secure and proven automated sampling solutions improve the overall process, guaranteeing accurate analysis and outcomes.

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.