IDBS Blog | 17th October 2013

Quality Testing and Traceability Comes of Age

Horsemeat adulteration. Tainted milk. TB-infected beef. E. coli-infected bean sprouts. All shocking scandals which have left consumers reeling, confidence in food safety dipping further and the reputation of several household names, and even some nations, badly damaged. This most recent spate of food safety scandals has increased demands for more stringent testing and traceability within the food manufacturing supply chain. Quality testing and traceability is now seen as a formidable weapon in protecting brand value and assuring consumer confidence. Ultimately, it’s a question of commercial survival.

New food safety legislations now place new responsibilities for food safety firmly on producers, processors, caterers and other handlers across the supply chain. They must demonstrate ‘due diligence’ to show that every precaution is taken to prevent contamination and subsequent food safety hazards. Assuring food traceability from farm to fork is the ultimate goal of the supply chain, linking producers and consumers, from in-house traceability of raw materials in production plants across the entire production chain to the consumer. It covers authenticity and diagnostic tests, detecting and preventing food hazards, confirming raw ingredients, for example differentiating between genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and non-GMO foods, and preserving the identity and wholesomeness of novel foods.

Using Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELNs) to implement an enterprise data management system within the research and development (R&D) process extends traceability and the ability to record the results of quality testing beyond production. It can also reduce time to market for new products by facilitating collaboration and enhancing troubleshooting across the discovery and development process. As the creative process is fully documented together with full context, any issue is quickly identified and addressed.

With ELNs, the ability to re-formulate recipes is also transformed and modifications such as gluten-free recipes can use existing data which is then ‘tweaked’. Maximizing innovations in this way delivers radical time and cost savings. It also avoids the problem of ‘dead’ siloed product research data stored on paper, in Excel® or, worse still, in the heads of personnel. ELNs reduce time to market and improve quality simultaneously.

Food scandals show us the importance of reacting quickly and rapid traceability to trace and identify affected products and batches. Quality testing and traceability using ELNs improves food quality and safety management while offering timely support during safety alerts.

The natural extension to ELNs is now prevention, testing and understanding raw material ingredients and qualifying them before they are even used in products to stop unwanted materials entering into finished products. ELNs offer a cost effective technological innovation for implementing accurate and reliable traceability systems to support the food industry within the new globalized economy.

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