A global food supply chain dictates the need for inspection, quality control, and safety protocols. A common challenge faced by food and beverage manufacturers is to not only comply with local regulations but also the regulations of the country they are exporting to. Food and beverage processors and manufacturers are not only responsible to meet the demands of business partners, regulators, and wholesalers but also those of the consumers. Every consumer looks for affordable, consistent, safe, and unadulterated food products. A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) enables food and beverage processors and manufacturers to efficiently manage food safety data in compliance with major regulations and market needs.
A quality Food and Beverage LIMS ensures that a laboratory is prepared for regulatory audits with a fully traceable system and provides a complete and secure solution for managing, tracking, and monitoring batches of products from raw materials to final products. With the advancements in technology, a LIMS, apart from meeting regulatory requirements, also helps in the proper labelling of food products that enable consumers to know details such as final product specification, nutritional information, and pricing. A modern Food LIMS also enables the automatic sharing of test reports through email and alerts on mobile phones.
How a LIMS Helps Food and Beverage Testing Laboratories in Meeting Best Practices?
A laboratory is deemed to be proficient when operating under the scope of accreditation. Furthermore, a laboratory must use standard test methods and must have established quality assurance and quality control processes to generate valid, accurate, and reliable test results.
- The ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard establishes rules for activities, processes and systems in a testing laboratory and emphasizes the importance of establishing a quality management system (QMS) that aims to improve the laboratory’s ability to consistently produce valid results. State and local regulatory laboratories are strongly encouraged to adhere to the ISO/IEC 17025 standard for food testing. A powerful LIMS helps food testing laboratories to prepare for an ISO/IEC 17025 audit and meet regulatory requirements.
- The requirements of the ISO 17025 standard are built upon the critical points outlined in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) methodology for food safety. HACCP requires food manufacturers to identify, evaluate, and address all risks associated with food safety.
- A LIMS manages calibration and maintenance data of analytical instruments, allows traceability, maintains electronic records, facilitates validation and reporting of test results, and enables laboratories to achieve compliance, standardize workflows, and streamline data management.
- A LIMS helps organizations comply with regulations, such as FSMA, Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Laboratory Practices, HACCP, and 21 CFR Part 11, European Union Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002, and maintains a secure audit trail. A LIMS enables laboratories to enforce best practices, tracks deviations from standard operating procedures (SOPs), document corrective and preventive actions, minimizing any chances of food recalls.
- With a LIMS managing processing workflows from raw materials to the final packaged product, food and beverage manufacturers can be assured that the data will be defensible to regulatory authorities. The manufacturers will have all data necessary to routinely reduce the risk of contamination, make corrective decisions if required, or effectively manage a food recall.
- A modern LIMS enables laboratories to seamlessly streamline and automate analytical and quality control workflows and aids in complying with food safety and quality control requirements. Quality control data helps laboratories trace analytical errors and is crucial to support the validity of test results of actual samples.
- A LIMS allows the validation of protocols and maintenance of traceable data records, providing a clear audit history to remain compliant.
- For generating high-quality test results, analytical tasks must be performed by competent analysts using properly calibrated instruments. Manual tasks such as maintaining staff training records or equipment calibration schedules can be automated using a LIMS. A LIMS enables instrument calibration on time to maintain compliance without system downtime or unplanned interruptions.
- A LIMS authenticates important laboratory activities through electronic signatures, enabling laboratories to comply with the 21 CFR Part 11 guidelines.
- A LIMS helps in easy collaboration between teams spread across different locations. When a test result is available, it can be validated by the appropriate reporting authority. When final testing is complete, certificates of analysis (CoAs) can be auto-generated with final results.
- A LIMS maintains a full chain of custody through the sample life cycle to track the sample custodian at any time.
- Data interoperability between LIMS and analytical instruments and software, such as ERP, enables organizations to share up to date information throughout the enterprise in real-time for improved decision-making.
Laboratories need reliable data management systems to assure food quality and safeguard the health of the consumers. By complying with the ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard, food testing laboratories can ensure data integrity and effective process management. Choosing to comply with a standard as comprehensive as ISO/IEC 17025:2017 is a smart decision for global players in the food industry. A laboratory needs to adhere to the ISO/IEC 17025:2017 and HACCP guidelines to allow its processes to meet even the most stringent requirements. A food LIMS automates workflows, increases efficiency, improves product safety, and manages recalls. A LIMS acts as a centralized system for collecting, storing, processing and reporting all food lab-generated data. A LIMS contributes to more efficient and productive laboratory processes through integrated workflows, automated procedures, and electronic records.