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An Inside Look at the Food Safety Process

testing food for its safety

Every time someone sits down to eat, there’s an underlying assumption the food they’re about to consume is safe. They trust it won’t hurt them or make them sick, and that the food will deliver the benefits promised by its packaging and promotion. The foundation of this trust begins with the lengths you, as a product/ingredient manufacturer, go to keep safety the top priority. As a food manufacturer, it’s critical for you to meet and exceed consumer expectations in terms of safety, quality, and overall satisfaction. That’s why it’s important to not only have a comprehensive food safety plan in place, but to also monitor its performance with a food safety verification program that confirms the efficacy of your protocols.

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What is a food safety verification program?

Verification is extremely important for maintaining the quality and safety of food. These programs help prevent potential safety issues so consumers can continue shopping at grocery stores or eat at a restaurant with confidence. In addition to meeting consumer expectations, the other major component of verification is regulatory compliance. Manufacturers use verification programs to establish the validity of their food safety plan and to obtain scientific evidence of its effectiveness for regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to the FDA's Code of Federal Regulations, 21 CFR Part 117, verification is the application of methods, procedures, tests, and other evaluations, in addition to monitoring, to determine whether a control measure or combination of control measures is or has been operating as intended and to establish the validity of the food safety plan.

A proper food safety verification program should:

  • Confirm the overall performance of a manufacturer’s food safety program
  • Identify food safety control measures or other areas that may need to be updated or improved upon to ensure safety
  • Determine that control measures are operating as intended

How does the verification process work?

The food safety verification process looks different for every product or individual control measure. However, it typically involves a thorough review of the product’s food safety plan documentation, record reviews, audits, and calibration activities, as well as food testing. The verification process can be done in-house for specialized verification activities involving product testing, yet many manufacturers choose to turn to trusted external resources, such as food testing facilities like Medallion Labs.

Types of Food Safety Tests

Food testing is done to evaluate whether or not various controls and/or monitoring methods within the safety plan are consistently working properly. The type and frequency of testing will vary based on the size, complexity, variability, and severity of the target analyte, the type of food being produced, and the food safety controls being evaluated. It’s important to understand the objective of each test, as well as to be able to interpret the results, because this data is what will drive future decision-making.

Among the most common types of verification tests used for the evaluation of formula stability are microbiological tests. These identify and measure various indicators of the quality of the food, such as the presence of food-borne pathogens, bacteria, and spoilage organisms.

The detection of foreign bodies is another method of food safety testing. It aims to identify whether foreign objects are present in the food product undergoing testing, such as stones, glass, metal, bones, and more. This is done with varying technologies based on the foreign item being tested for.

During microbial challenge studies, food manufacturers gain valuable insight about the safety of their processing, distribution, preparation, and handling processes. These are performed by simulating the occurrence of a contaminated product going through the entire manufacturing cycle. To begin, chosen contaminants or microorganisms are vaccinated into a food, which is then analyzed to determine if these elements would pose a health hazard or cause spoilage.

In addition, many foods also undergo a chemical analysis to test for the presence of food allergens, pathogens or heavy metals, including arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), and other potential contaminants or hazards. While these types of food tests are some of the most common, there are dozens of other biological, chemical, and physical hazard testing options available through Medallion Labs.

Get a custom verification program with Medallion Labs

Partner your food processing or manufacturing facility with Medallion Labs to get the ongoing verification support you need. Medallion Labs specializes in food verification programs and simplifies the entire process from start to finish, providing resources and services to help you deliver safe products to your customers.

We invite you to browse our food test library and discover more about our heavy metals testing packages, pesticide multi-residue analyses (MRAs), and other testing capabilities. With every test, we include comprehensive analytical data to help you fully understand the results and determine how to best move your products forward.

Want to find out more about food safety verification programs at Medallion Labs? Connect with us today.

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