Process control of microbiological analyses is essential for quality control. Laboratories that carry out microbiological analyses for quality control are advised to carry out a daily process control. However, not everyone realizes how useful and necessary this is.
Laboratories that carry out microbiological analyses for quality control are advised to carry out a daily process control. However, not everyone realizes how useful and necessary this is.
Many food manufacturers sample their products and have their own or external laboratories conduct microbiological analyses. To comply with the established HACCP requirements or other regulations, samples are taken according to certain schedules, and the microbiological determinations follow established procedures. The results are used to make important decisions. Example decisions are: is allowing some products to leave the production location safe? Should production cease immediately? Are the products downgraded? or should a product be recalled?
How reliable are the results?
In extreme cases, stopping production and even issuing a recall are measures that have a significant impact. This is reason enough to want to be certain that the results of the microbiological investigation are reliable. Despite this, there are laboratories that rarely or never check the analyses. This could mean insufficient safeguards against safety risks in the production process.
Working with reference material provides certainty
However, more and more laboratories are introducing process controls with the help of microbiological reference materials. When reference materials are put through the entire analysis process daily, this provides certainty concerning the methods used and the quality of the materials, including media, filters, and pipettes. It also shows whether analysts have followed the correct procedure and the equipment has worked properly. For instance, have the supplements been added to the culture medium? The following is a simple example. When, for example, Salmonella reference material is applied when analyzing the sample, and enumeration shows that the results match the specified values, it demonstrates your analytical process is in control.
False positive or negative results can be intercepted quickly
Process control also provides guarantees concerning false positive or negative results for product samples. For example, the culture medium used by a laboratory may be of such poor quality that far too little bacterial growth occurs, leading to a false negative result. Carrying out a process control enables this issue to be identified rapidly, with the lack of growth of the reference material showing exactly where the problem lies.
Subjecting microbiological analyses to process control provides solid assurance for a quality system and/or HACCP system.