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testing in the food and beverage industry


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Beth Sharp explores the application of software solutions within the food and beverage industry


n 4 January 2011 US President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law, essentially taking the fi rst step in a new proactive


approach to food regulation that focuses on the prevention of contamination and safety issues, rather than reaction to problems after they have occurred. This new legislation will have wide-ranging implications for many food and beverage companies outside America as the US Food and Drink


Administration (FDA) now has the power to hold imported foods to the same standards as domestic ones. Bearing in mind that the US is one of the


world’s largest importers of consumables, Colin Thurston of Thermo Fisher Scientifi c explains that this greater scrutiny of data will drive producers towards a much more comprehensive set of records, and have the added effect of ingraining compliance procedures within their laboratories. ‘This means that they will need to invest in a system that can maintain their records effectively, which in turn means they need a laboratory information management system (LIMS).’ For an industry such as food and beverage, which has traditionally relied on manual processes, adapting to changing regulations must begin with a move away from a reliance on paper. ‘One of the things food producing


companies will notice moving forward is that regulation will push them to an electronic and secured data environment,’ says Thurston, who recognises that there is a certain level of hesitancy that comes with departing from time-tested working practices. Financial outlay is commonly cited as one of the main reasons and Thurston’s response is that if these companies were actually to study the amount of time and effort it takes to support a paper system, they would clearly see that the cost of an electronic management system can typically be recouped in nine to 18 months. The fi rst step in improving an existing operation, he says, is to assess existing processes, looking for bottlenecks or where a lot of paper records are being used.


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