Today’s media posts include food recalls due to contamination, impurities, and mislabeling almost weekly. Food recalls have grown 4-fold in the last 5 years and the average cost of a recall for a food company is $10million. The food supply chain is getting increasingly complex and safety problems can directly affect public health. Protecting a food producer’s brand and its consumers with product traceability is more important than ever.
To help prevent recalls and address them before harm occurs, 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. 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.
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.
The Need for Representative Sampling
Obtaining accurate food testing results depends on and starts with obtaining a representative sample for analysis. Automatic sampling as opposed to hand sampling with a scoop, spigot or other basic method, obtains a true representative sample. Food must be sampled automatically while in its production environment for safety and quality. An automatic sampling process continuously creates a composite sample representative of the entire batch or lot. As a result, QA managers can know they are analyzing a sample that represents the entire process stream. 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.
In addition to complying with current regulations, the need for traceability is becoming more challenging for food manufacturers dealing with hundreds of ingredients that need to meet quality requirements. Ingredient management is a growingly complex system. The management of an ingredient supply chain by requiring suppliers to provide a COA (Certificate of Analysis) on a primary sample that is guaranteed as representative can benefit from automatic sampling. As these demands flow from the customer to the supplier the supplier needs to select sampling equipment to fulfill the demands of their customers.
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. Often contamination, counterfeiting or tampering can be detected with an automatic solution for product sampling that may not be found with random hand or final product sampling.
The Benefits of Automatic Sampling
In-process ingredient blend management systems could be enhanced by automatic sampling to verify that ingredients are being blended at appropriate ratios. Using a programmable logic controller, automatic samplers can be programmed for continual composite control, batch control and flow proportional control with remote operation. For more efficiency, a sampler controller can be connected to a complete ERP system. A sampler controller can be tied into the system to register sample acquisition events and correlate them to specific lots of material and test results within a company’s database of ingredient and process information.
For the most reliable ingredient analysis and traceability, automatic representative sampling offers a repeatable method providing a more accurate, efficient way to sample versus scoop/pull methods. In addition, automatic sampling can aid in the ease of QC testing by automating the primary sample acquisition. It improves confidence in testing for internal QA, third party QA, customers, or to stock a library of samples for future reference.
Automated sampling could be used to ease lot tracking by simplifying sample acquisition and increasing the number of lots and therefore decreasing the individual lot size. For example, N-60 sample plans greatly increase the probability of threat detection.
When it comes to avoiding recalls and the potential health and monetary cost they bring, food needs to be sampled automatically as part of a plan that uses traceability to ensure safety and quality. Automatic sampling allows food processors to more closely and accurately monitor their ingredients and processes to catch potential problems earlier and more frequently. An automatic sampling solution can more than pay for its installation by preventing a costly recall.