Economic arguments aside, there are other reasons for considering the use of an automated media preparation system in the food lab testing process. First, they’re easy to use, and sample accuracy is ensured due to the precise dispense capabilities (both volume and temperature) afforded by these types of systems. Lab recordkeeping can also be automated to a certain extent, as the data collected by these products can often be uploaded to a lab information management system if one is available. And finally, lab operational safety can be significantly improved. There are fewer autoclaves involved in the testing process, and both the heating and transport of large volumes of heated enrichment media may be eliminated.
In closing, using automated media preparation systems in the food testing process flow may make a great deal of sense in the operation of many food testing labs, but these products aren’t for everyone. They’re not ideally suited for labs where testing for food pathogens is minimal; e.g., in labs that are primarily focused on quantitative testing. And, in smaller labs, the traditional use of autoclaves and sterilizers may be adequate for test volumes, and there may not be a strong economic argument justifying the productivity advantages afforded by these systems. In most other situations, though, they’re worth a look by lab managers seeking to improve operational efficiencies.
Garcia is the SQF system manager and microbiology lab manager at Diamond Pet Food. Reach her at HGarcia@diamondpet.com. Castaneda is vice president of engineering at Heateflex Corp. Reach him at HCastaneda@heateflex.com.