The more quickly a rapid microbial screening method can help you make an important business decision, the greater the financial value you will realize. A simple, rapid test that provides a positive or negative result is all that’s needed for the vast majority of today’s functionally sterile production runs. Rapid presence/absence primary screening quickly reveals product status.
A rapid microbial method should process samples efficiently, with minimal input. The ideal rapid method is easy to use, processes samples in a resource-efficient manner, and allows for “walk-away” automation. Look for a rugged, robust, accurate instrument with high sample throughput that is also small enough to conserve valuable lab space.
To obtain maximum efficiencies from a rapid screening system, a provider must offer comprehensive service as well as scientific and technical support. Critical items to consider when evaluating the support offered by a provider are:
- Validation expertise and support;
- Experience with similar product types in the dairy, food, and beverage industries;
- Application development facilities and capabilities;
- Global customer support and technical services;
- Rapid response times;
- System optimized for minimal system downtime;
- Regulatory compliance assistance;
- Data integration for track-and-trace reporting; and
- Clear basis for estimating return on investment.
Rapid microbial screening software should track, trace, and provide controlled access to data. Be sure the system provides a database that is not only customizable to a company’s unique requirements but also capable of tracking samples in a way that meets USDA/FDA or local regulatory requirements. The database must be designed to integrate with existing LIMS and ERP systems and easily export valuable reporting information to common spreadsheet and database programs such as Excel or Access. Secure, remote access to testing data will make it easier for lab management to generate reports and monitor the system from any location on the network.
To be successful, companies in the dairy industry and their suppliers must adapt to ever-changing products and market requirements. The rapid method provider must be committed to continuous improvement. Key activities to look for include investments in instrumentation and software, a range of reagent kits, method optimization to reduce downtime, ISO certification, and in-house laboratories that assist in application development.
The Opportunity of Rapid Methods
With a solid understanding of the key considerations in selecting a rapid method, manufacturers of packaged dairy, food, and beverage products can capitalize on the full benefits of rapid microbial screening—faster, more reliable microbial results, improved manufacturing efficiencies, reduced inventory requirements, increased customer responsiveness, and faster time to market.
The benefits add up to ongoing quality assurance with significant bottom-line savings for today’s progressive food and beverage companies.
Scott Scdoris is director of food and beverage at Celsis.