limsEvery day there is a food recall of some kind. Whether it’s peanuts or spinach, contamination can occur at any stage of production – from raw materials management, to storage and production processes, out-of-spec instrumentation and unsafe practices. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will require food producers to monitor their processes and provide documentation for proper food safety and preventive controls that meet or exceed HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) methods. A laboratory information management system (LIMS) provides the data and process traceability that enables food producers to maintain safe processes and ensure quality control for their products, and respond to regulatory authorities with acceptable reporting documentation.

A recent article in Quality Assurance & Food Safety (Food Safety Activity Critical Regardless of Final Rule) gives a really good overview of not only the impact of the FSMA legislation, but also the steps that food producers can and should take now, well before any legislation is fully enacted. Because no food producer wants to risk a recall and the resulting loss of revenue and consumer confidence, steps taken now to properly identify areas for improved quality and process will ensure not only that product is safely delivered to the consumer, but also any future FSMA requirements will be easily met. A LIMS can monitor instrument calibration and maintenance schedules, ensure proper training records for personnel, manage the lab’s workflow and testing requirements, and store all records related to sample testing and report generation.

IT Solutions for Food Safety Management has just been published in Food Quality Magazine and takes the discussion further by outlining the key drivers that have led to the current environment: the establishing of the European Food Safety Authority, the development of the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) and the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the United States. This article reinforces the need for secure data management to provide documentation and traceability of all food processing activities. A LIMS is relied upon by the world’s most prominent food and beverage companies to manage sample testing and ensure quality control.

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Paul Hollywood, with ARC Advisory Group, has written a paper (Using Your Laboratory to Protect Your Brand) that discusses the need for food producers to focus on prevention of hazardous conditions and the benefits of establishing a traceability framework for regulatory compliance before all of the requirements of the FSMA are in place . A LIMS provides this secure data management environment for monitoring batch relationships between raw materials, processed materials, and packaged goods in an increasingly complex food supply chain.

A good explanation of the requirements and impact of the FSMA can be found in this white paper, Get Ready for the Food Safety Modernization Act: How a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) Can Help You Be Prepared. Colin Thurston, Director of Product Strategy at Thermo Fisher Scientific, has published a technical poster (The Use of laboratory Information Management Systems in Food Safety Testing) which may be useful to you and which also details the many ways a LIMS is a critical tool to food testing and production laboratories. Finally, a really good site for resources related to the use of LIMS in the food industry is Food Safety Resources. Here you will find published articles on a range of topics related to Informatics solutions for the food industry, case studies and technical information.

I hope this information has been useful to you and I appreciate any comments.