In the food industry, sampling is a key component of establishing food and beverage quality and safety. It entails taking samples of a given product in order to identify any contaminants that may exist in the entire chain of the food production line. Sampling also helps to ensure the overall quality of a product before it’s packaged and distributed to the marketplace.
Manual sampling, involving random samples of a product taken by bin scoop and other by-hand methods, is still an accepted and widely used approach to the practice in the industry. Yet this method is known to be inherently flawed for its lack of controls and inability to provide a truly representative product sample. Knowing this, many food manufacturers have updated by implementing the much more accurate method of automatic sampling to achieve the most representative samples possible for lab analysis.
To learn more about auto sampling, let’s examine some of the most important facts about the practice.
1. Automatic Sampling Removes the Flaws of the Manual Process
Those enrolled in quality assurance training may be interested to learn that many producers still use manual methods of sampling, as it is a low-cost approach to the process that remains accepted by food regulators as standard operating procedure. The method is, nonetheless, somewhat flawed due to the unavoidable nature of human error that occurs through manual work. Some aspects of the hand-sampling process that can lead to inconsistencies include:
- Varying points at which samples are taken, providing snapshots only of the process
- An inability to pinpoint contamination origin
- Workers taking samples in different ways from shift to shift
- Lack of controls
Due to the flaws described above, many producers with the budget to invest in automatic sampling equipment are acquiring the technology as the ultimate means of obtaining better overall food sample quality.
2. Automatic Sampling Allows for More Accuracy and Efficiency
The automatic approach to the process serves to be more accurately representative of the food or beverage being analyzed in the lab by:
- taking repeated assessment of small, incremental samples of the product
- exposing the sampler to as much product as possible through many installation points
- taking cross-sectional cuts
A more consistent sample results from this automated process, giving producers the opportunity to pinpoint contamination in production, and allowing for much more overall accuracy and dependability of ingredient analysis and traceability. Auto-sampling also offers more efficiency due to its ability to be easily incorporated into existing equipment and systems, so producers can remain confident that samples are being taken throughout the process without need of operator oversight.
3. The Technology Can Improve Yields
Due to the greater accuracy that auto sampling enables in monitoring ingredient quality and identifying potential food safety hazards, producers can be confident in the data they collect, which can justify ramping up production when samples look good. They can also identify and remove pathogens and other issues as soon as possible, preventing risk and extensive contamination, thereby reducing product waste and avoiding product recalls. The overall result is more output of top-quality product released to market for greater profitability.
4. Safety Is Another Benefit Food Quality Assurance Pros Should Know Of
The process of manual sampling opens up two potential safety risks in the field of food production:
- Food contamination occurring through hand-scooping and other manual methods
- Physical harm caused in the process of manually extracting samples
Automatic sampling processes enhance food quality assurance practices, greatly reducing the risk of contamination, with samples extracted by sanitized machinery rather than human hands and clothing that may potentially introduce bacteria and other types of infectious agents to the product. The risk of physical harm is also removed via auto sampling, as the automated process doesn’t rely on workers’ hands near the fast moving machinery of food production lines—an aspect of manual sampling that can lead to accidents.
As regulators continue to impose rigorous standards in food production to prevent foodborne illnesses and maintain worker safety requirements, it seems only logical that many manufacturers rely on automatic sampling as a preferred approach to the practice for achieving greater efficiency and reliability.
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