Building Consumer Trust: How an ELN Can Help F&B Laboratories Address Food Safety Concerns
Robert South, an English clergyman from the seventeenth century, wrote that “society is built on trust, and trust upon confidence in one another’s integrity.” This statement is particularly true in regard to the food and beverage supply chain in that consumers trust and rely upon the integrity of individual businesses to ensure food safety.
However, in recent months, this trust appears to have been violated by a few companies operating and selling food in Asia. The most well-known example of this violation is an American-owned meat processing company in China that supplies food to various clients, including McDonalds, Starbucks and KFC. Through the investigative reporting of a local news broadcaster, workers were caught on camera using their bare hands to process expired meat and adding meat that had fallen to the floor back into the process.
In Taiwan, another company violated consumer trust when it attempted to pass off “gutter oil,” or recycled restaurant oil, as regular cooking oil. The scheme appears to have been perpetuated for more than a decade, but had only recently been detected by health inspectors. In conjunction with the recall, officials identified over 1,300 food products that had been tainted by the oil.
The unfortunate result of these few bad apples is that the integrity of the entire industry is called into question. In response, consumers are demanding that government take action and create new regulations to ensure food safety. In addition, due to the globalization of the food supply chain, health officials in both the U.S. and Europe are monitoring the growing problems in Asia and are prepared to modify current regulations to ensure the safety of food products coming into their own countries.
For laboratories that operate in the Food and Beverage industry, these regulatory changes will create new challenges that will need to be addressed quickly in order to continue operations. This may mean better coordination amongst laboratory scientists involved in the development of new products, as well as ensuring that documentation is readily available to respond to regulatory requests. An easy way to increase collaboration and documentation capabilities is to implement an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN).
ELN’s are designed to help food and beverage companies respond to food safety regulations in the following ways:
- Collaboration – The digital nature of an ELN ensures that scientists have the ability to share information easily with colleagues, collaborators or regulators. Since the data is digital, it can be easily exported and sent to any approved contributors or regulatory parties.
- Data Capture and Analysis – ELN’s are designed to capture both structured and unstructured data, allowing food scientists to record and store information in a single place, including data from instruments or ideas noted during a brainstorming session. Centralizing this information in one location allows users to quickly find and access all of the relevant information to address a regulatory change or quickly execute on a marketing opportunity.
- Search – Another key benefit offered by an ELN is the ability to search within the digital notes to find important details. This can be helpful in addressing questions from regulators or to review old data with fresh eyes.
Food safety is a major concern for everyone. As the food chain becomes more global and expansive, it is not unreasonable to expect an increase in regulation. An ELN, like the Accelrys Notebook, can help companies respond quickly to changing government regulations and standards. For more information, please visit our website today.