For a long time, the food and beverage industry has relied on manual processes and a paper-based system. The introduction of FSMA has introduced the need for greater scrutiny of data, however. Regulation and legislation are pressing companies to use a secure electronic data environment, increasing the need for laboratory information management systems. Many food and beverage companies are wary of this change due to potentially high costs; however, the cost of an electronic management system can generally be earned back in nine to 18 months.
Bacardi, the largest privately held spirits company in the world, has to contend with various legal requirements implemented by the FDA. The major benefit to food and beverage companies resulting from the installation of a LIMS solution is improved operational efficiency. The LIMS provides companies with sample management, records data and test results, and ensures regulation compliance through increasing traceability. LIMS can also be integrated with other laboratory instrumentation systems and enterprise systems, enabling easier transmission of information across the lab and the organization, reducing manual efforts and improving decision making.
A LIMS can highlight where time is being spent in sample processing and how the system can be improved. The Bacardi application example illustrates the LIMS system’s flexibility and improved efficiencies in the quality management of products.
As part of the food and beverage industry, Bacardi is one of many companies in the process of adjusting its sample testing and recording procedures to comply with the new legislation. Its flavoring center is in Geneva, Switzerland; in 2004, the laboratories within this site installed a Thermo Scientific LIMS with the aim of increasing operational efficiency throughout its testing facilities.
A project is in progress to roll out LIMS implementation across all Bacardi laboratories around the world, which will also be interfaced with SAP. LIMS provides Bacardi with effective sample management and recording of data, while increasing traceability of samples, ensuring full regulatory compliance. When LIMS is integrated with other laboratory instrumentation and enterprise systems, transmission of information across laboratories and the entire organization is significantly enhanced. This allows for a considerable reduction in manual efforts within the laboratories and greatly improves the decision-making process.
At Bacardi, the LIMS plays a critical role in the traceability of quality in the production process, providing capabilities such as:
- Automated data collection from testing and delivering the records of proof that are required for regulatory compliance;
- A secure environment for monitoring batch relationships between raw materials, processed materials, and packaged goods;
- A centralized system that collects, stores, processes, and reports all the data generated within food laboratories, allowing a complete overview of the quality of any product;
- Automated checks for out-of specification results and identification of suspect products to prevent release pending investigation; and
- Assurance that all samples are handled and processed correctly.
The Data Mountain
Due to the increasing sophistication of technologies that detect contaminants and the resulting focus of legislative bodies around the world, the workload in food and beverage laboratories like Bacardi’s is increasing. As pathogens and potentially harmful contaminants are identified, analytical technologies are developed to enable detection and quantification. Regulatory authorities continuously update standards that compel laboratories to carry out these additional tests, and analytical techniques are evolving to give higher sensitivity to contaminants.
These points are illustrated with two facts: The FDA has reported that there are five times more identified pathogens as there were 50 years ago, and analytical technologies have advanced to allow large numbers of contaminants to be screened in a single method.
It is clear that modern analytical techniques have the ability to generate more and more data for the laboratory to process. It is also clear laboratory scientists need tools to enable them to spend as much time as possible doing important work, rather than manually sifting through data and preparing reports.