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How Representative Sampling Can Improve Food Safety

Posted by John Powalisz on 5/10/17 2:30 PM
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How Representative Sampling Can Improve Food Safety

Expanding regulations. Foodborne illness outbreaks and product recalls. Intensifying demand for food and beverage safety. The challenges in food and beverage production are growing more intense every year. How can you keep up?

The Challenge: Growing Regulations

Manual sampling techniques such as hand scoop and spigot sampling are common sampling methods with food and beverage producers and processors. These convenient and low-cost direct methods are widely accepted as a standard operating procedure. Final product sampling also is regarded as being easy and reliable – the product is a random representation of the lot and is already contained and ready for the lab.

But direct hand sampling and final product sampling can introduce sampling bias.

This Bacteriological Analytical Manual from the FDA regarding food sampling states:

“The adequacy and condition of the sample or specimen received for examination are of primary importance. If samples are improperly collected and mishandled or are not representative of the sampled lot, the laboratory results will be meaningless.

Because interpretations about a large consignment of food are based on a relatively small sample of the lot, established sampling procedures must be applied uniformly. A representative sample is essential when pathogens or toxins are sparsely distributed within the food or when disposal of a food shipment depends on the demonstrated bacterial content in relation to a legal standard.” 

Expanding regulations only exacerbate this issue. For example, the 2016 implementation of the hazard analysis and risk-based preventive control (HARPC) provisions under Section 103 of the U.S. FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) placed more responsibility on the food industry to identify potential food safety risks.

Manual sampling simply isn’t enough to keep up with this regulation. As a result, food producers are investing in technology to improve their processes. They’re implementing the latest food safety procedures, with more testing throughout production from raw ingredients to finished product to improve traceability.

The Solution: Representative Sampling

The Grocery Manufacturers Association recommends using the representative sampling processes outlined in the 2003 FDA BAM study to sample nuts for salmonella. The International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) offers a thorough review of principles and applications for all types of microbiological sampling, which also supports using representative sampling.

Why? Because representative sampling takes bias out of your sampling system. The more representative your sample is, the more accurate it is – and the easier it is to achieve regulatory compliance.

Sampling for food safety is mathematically representative. What’s more, you can prove it and document it to protect your process and facility. With this kind of proactive sampling – taking small, incremental samples before a food or beverage product is bottled or fully processed – you can streamline the compliance process.

Representative sampling captures a limited volume of material that accurately reflects the characteristics of the entire lot, batch, or process stream. It uses indirect methods to virtually eliminate direct sampling method problems such as imprecision error, sample bias and contamination.

Using a representative sampling plan in conjunction with automatic sampling improves assessment of the characteristics of the entire lot, batch, or process stream to avoid food risk hazards. An N-60 sampling plan increases the probability of detection dramatically – and helps you ensure compliance with the latest regulations.

How Representative Sampling Improves Regulatory Compliance

  1. Reliability – Representative automatic sampling is reliable, from validation of raw ingredients to quality testing at each key processing stage. It is the only way to ensure confidence in food testing results.
  2. Accuracy – For the most dependable ingredient analysis and traceability, automatic representative sampling offers a repeatable method providing a more accurate, efficient way to sample versus scoop/pull methods that are inherently bias.
  3. Ingredient verification – In-process ingredient blend management systems could be enhanced by automatic sampling to verify that ingredients are being blended at appropriate ratios.
  4. Product traceability – Tracking and verifying ingredients from farm to final products throughout the supply chain requires a statistically sound sampling plan. A product tracing plan can help automate the documentation of the production and distribution chain of products and allow for the efficient collection of data required by the FSMA. Automatic sampling makes executing product sampling and tracing plans easier and more efficient with automated and accurate data documentation. An automatic sampling solution can more than pay for its installation by preventing costly recalls and enhancing compliance.

Ready to see how automatic representative sampling can help your regulatory compliance? Contact us.

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

Topics: Food & Beverage

Written by John Powalisz

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John Powalisz, Director of International Sales, is dedicated to sharing his technical expertise and knowledge of sampling equipment and systems in power plants, refineries, chemical and food processing facilities garnered from more than 19 years with the company. John has worked with clients worldwide to help them to comply with regulations and optimize processes by applying proper sampling hardware and techniques. While he is well-versed in all Sentry products and applications, he is particularly focused on the food and beverage and power generation markets as well as emerging market development.