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Production Process Insights

How to Make Food Safe with Representative Sampling & Hygienic Design

Posted by AJ Naber on 11/16/16 11:30 AM
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How to ensure food safety with representative sampling

Earlier this month PACK EXPO International 2016 brought the best-of-the-best in processing and packaging innovation from a wide variety of industries at the largest processing and packaging trade show in the world.

This year’s show introduced two new hygienic automatic samplers for free-flowing solids and powders: the Sentry HPR automatic point sampler and the Sentry HRX automatic strip sampler.

In addition to exhibiting at this show, AJ Naber, Industry Manager for Sentry Equipment, presented on the Innovation Stage to discuss why representative sampling is critical for food safety: “Promoting Food Safety Through Representative Sampling & Hygienic Design.” If you missed PACK EXPO or the presentation, the content of it is discussed below.

Food safety starts with sampling. Representative sampling captures a limited volume of material that accurately reflects the characteristics of the entire lot, batch, or process stream. Hand scoop and spigot sampling have long been commonplace 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. Unfortunately, direct hand sampling and final product sampling can be problematic and inadequate.

Automatic product sampling using indirect methods virtually eliminates direct sampling method problems such as imprecision error, sample bias and contamination. For more information about the disadvantages of direct sampling and the advantages of indirect, automatic sampling, see our blog “Collecting your food & beverage samples to meet QA lab standards".

Using a representative sampling plan in conjunction with automatic sampling improves assessment of the characteristics of the entire lot, batch, or process stream to assess food risk hazards. An N-60 sampling plan increases the probability of detection dramatically.

N-60 sampling plans

The number of samples taken (N) is the key driver to a statistically sound sampling plan.  The Probability-of-Detection values assume random distribution of a given defect and sample size only becomes a driver when the defect distribution is homogeneous. An N-60 sampling plan includes 60 samples per lot of material in a process. Taking 60 samples is a clear improvement over many common methods using direct sampling.

N-60 Representative Sampling Plan

Automatic sampling is extremely important for implementing N-60 sampling plans, which greatly increase the probability of threat detection. 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.

Improving sampler design

A suitable automatic sampling solution increases the effectiveness of a sampling plan. Part of that solution is addressing cleanliness in powder and solid sampling equipment design.

Previously available powder and solid samplers are not easily cleanable and take too much time and effort to sanitize. The reason is they were not designed with sanitation and cleanability in mind.  This creates an increased potential for cross contamination of microbes.

Low moisture food production facilities that have high/medium hygiene classification zones can benefit from an improved sampler design that minimizes cross contamination risks. Characteristics of these facilities include:

  • Products sensitive to contamination
  • Equipment that requires a high degree of cleaning and inspection
  • Products enter from a validated kill step to prevent contamination risk
  • Processing of open, exposed, ready-to-eat products (RTE) prior to primary packaging.


New product development results

The product development process for the new hygienic samplers recently addressed this issue by utilizing the OpX Leadership Network’s One Voice for Hygienic Equipment Design for Low-Moisture Foods document.

The document helped assess the risk by evaluating the hazards and determining the requirements of the sampling equipment design. The evaluation focused on technical requirements for hygienic zone level usage requirements for sanitary operations, cleaning methods and product contact surface material.

The new product development process resulted in two hygienic automatic samplers that closely follow the strict standards of various certifying agencies and technical reports, including the One Voice for Hygienic Equipment Design (High Hygiene: Dry Cleaning).

Sentry HPR and Sentry HRX automatic samplers

The new Sentry HPR and Sentry HRX automatic samplers meet or exceed minimum food protection and sanitation criteria for materials, design, fabrication and construction. To meet these standards all product contact surfaces dismantle for easy cleaning and inspection without tools. This feature greatly reduces the time required to clean the sampler in dry cleaning environments. It also lessens the potential for the equipment to be a bacterial liability. These new samplers are an automatic solution that reduces risk when developing or refining a sample plan.

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

Topics: Food & Beverage

Written by AJ Naber

Picture of AJ Naber
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.