Researchers need to manage data generated from millions of sample tests conducted through automated instruments and robotics while meeting internal and external standards. The volumes of information that are generated need to be effectively analyzed by researchers in order to arrive at the right conclusion in a short time period. To address these challenges, many researchers utilize laboratory information management systems (LIMS) to manage the vast array of instrument-derived data along with analytical and biologically relevant information.
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LIMS provide researchers with fewer time constraints and allow them to develop of food products that are not only safer, but also better tasting with a longer shelf life.
Quality control measures are also employed to ensure that the final product coming off the food production line is safe and stays safe until it is consumed. Although no method in quality control has shown to be completely effective in preventing growth of the O157 colony, quality control managers have an increasing array of weapons in this fight, including ultrasound, ozone, electrolyzed water and irradiation. The jury is still out on whether these tactics may also alter the taste and nutritional value of the food product itself. However, precise management of each phase of food processing practice helps to minimize unexpected and costly liabilities later.
LIMS allow quality control (QC) managers to automate testing and track the results associated with items in the production line more efficiently and effectively. Moreover, they are able to isolate batches by interfacing the LIMS with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and manufacturing execution systems (MES). Cutting-edge LIMS platforms can be readily interfaced with manufacturing and production line software and automated equipment. This allows the creation of a uniform pipeline of information, minimizing information processing by humans – resulting in less downtime and more current, accurate reporting.
Recent developments with E. coli O157:H7 have forced food and beverage laboratories to ensure complete production compliance with not only the corporation-specific internal standards, but also with government and industry practices, including good laboratory practices (GLPs), current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs), and regulatory requirements such as 21 CFR Part 11.
In case of an adverse event, such as discovery of the O157 strain in the product, the LIMS application provides QC managers with real-time audit trails of specific touch-points in the supply chain where corrective and preventative action can be taken. LIMS end users, for example, can stop the production line early when contamination is found, reducing unnecessary cost and waste from contaminated food products and eliminating the need to destroy packaged food and beverage products after they have entered into the stream of commerce.In addition, because LIMS can be accessed throughout the company, they provide a wealth of information to employees at all levels, from the chief science officer and vice-president of quality, to the bench workers who run samples and manage the data on foodborne bacteria, and ultimately to the corporate purchaser, who relies on the delivery of a quality product.
Kourosh Sabet-Payman, M.Sc. is business development specialist with LabVantage Solutions, Inc. in Bridgewater, N.J. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.