One of the key contributors to successful monitoring of food safety from farm to fork is the application of consistent practices to the laboratory environment. Since 2010, the EFSA has required that laboratories generating data that will be used as a part of any traceability record must be accredited under the ISO/IEC Standard 17025: General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. The ISO 17025 standard defines a series of requirements around technical competence and continuous improvement, which demand that labs keep records not just of the samples tested and their results, but of supporting data such as instrument calibration status, staff training records, reagents and standards, etc. Having this universal accreditation requirement for all food-related analysis meansit’s possible to compare data sets from different sources, which in turn leads to faster and more accurate monitoring of food-related incidents that may impact EU citizens.
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LIMS Plays a Star Role
As well thought-out as the EFSA approach is, the system would be impossible to administer without sophisticated data management, like today’s enterprise-level LIMS. From 400 independent organizations, individual manufacturers, and national authorities within the member states to the EFSA itself, the massive sampling operation hinges on consistent, reliable laboratory testing, management, and integration. LIMS monitor instrument calibration and maintenance schedules ensure proper training records for personnel, manage workflow and testing requirements inside labs, and store all records related to sample testing and report generation. A LIMS also provides a secure data management environment for monitoring batch relationships between raw materials, processed materials, and packaged goods in an increasingly complex food supply chain. Having a LIMS also ensures the external accreditation program for ISO 17025 is significantly less burdensome for the laboratory by having online searchable access to supporting records—something that is both time consuming and tricky if the data is kept as paper records.
Across many individual labs, LIMS technology aggregates and analyzes the massive data sets throughout Europe, helping authorities identify potential outbreaks before they happen.
Navigating and thriving in a system as complex as the EFSA’s requires more than instinct and hands-on experience. With LIMS behind the scenes automating data aggregation and analysis, equipment calibration and maintenance, technician training, and more, the global players in the food supply chain are united in a common goal: Ensuring that everything we eat and drink is tasty, nutritious, and, most important, safe.
Thurston is the director of product strategy for process industries at Thermo Fisher Scientific, and is responsible for determining the strategy of Thermo Fisher’s current informatics portfolio while identifying new market opportunities within the process industry sector.