In 2011, the US congress adopted the Food Safety Management Act (FSMA), a sweeping set of food industry reforms, and the first real update to food safety policy in the US in over 70 years. FSMA provides a new set of challenges for food producers and processors. Along with an emphasis on preventive controls, FSMA requires data collection for traceability of the food supply chain. The food industry must now capture testing and safety records for each lot of product, and is responsible for tracking a product's journey throughout the supply chain. The FDA expects food producers and processors to be able to provide these data within 24 hours of their request.
This puts unprecedented pressure on an industry that has traditionally employed manual data capture and tracking methods.
When an organic dairy producer needed a more accurate and efficient way to label the approximately 11,000 testing samples of milk they handled each year, they sought the advice of industry peers. The dairy farm recognized that the highly manual process they used was cumbersome and time-consuming, with an increased potential for human error. On the recommendation of another dairy farm that had recently transitioned from a similar, manual process to an automated solution that included using BarTender® label software to mark and track the testing samples, the dairy farm contacted AbeTech for help in designing a labeling system that was efficient, easy to deploy, and met the demands of the dairy farm environment.
Once milk is collected from a dairy cow, samples of the milk are taken, stored in an ice bath, and tested periodically over a 72-hour period to ensure the milk is wholesome and pathogen-free. Each sample includes twelve vials, one for each test run on the product during the testing period. The dairy farm had been labeling each of those samples by physically writing on the vial, and recording the testing data for each manually.
With 11,000 samples tested each year, and data for each sample recorded twelve times over a 72-hour period, the solution that AbeTech implemented would have to enable rapid, accurate labeling and data collection on the busy dairy farm, and include label media whose adhesive would be able to stand up to long periods of submersion in chilled water. The dairy farm also required the labels to be a specific size and shape to accommodate the containers used in its testing system.
After consulting with the dairy farm, AbeTech's technical expert recommended a three-up, one quart circle label from Zebra that he knew would meet the farm's requirements for size and durability.
Now, when a sample is taken, 18 labels are printed, twelve for labeling the sample vials, and the remaining used in paperwork and other documentation.
The labels include BarTender-generated barcodes for automated data capture, increasing the system's efficiency and reducing the potential for human error — auto identification technology provides the accuracy that's essential in food safety applications. The AbeTech technical expert presented several software options to the dairy farm, but they settled on BarTender to drive their labeling, printing, and barcode data coding and management for its proven track record in food safety applications and ease of deployment and adoption.
The farm has been using the AbeTech-designed labeling system for over a year. Label production has been running seamlessly, with minimal additional support required beyond ordering new label media as needed. BarTender's design interface is so intuitive that the dairy farm is in the process of creating new label formats on their own — no consulting or professional technical assistance needed.
With the implementation of their barcoded sample label marking system, the dairy farm now is able to set up and print the labels they require for each testing lot quickly and accurately. Printing all 18 labels from one BarTender file ensures consistency in data that may have been compromised by the system of hand-writing labels that they formerly used. Data capture is now a matter of a simple scan. The countless hours personnel at the dairy farm formerly spent hand writing labels and recording data for each of the twelve tests per lot have been recovered, the process now streamlined and efficient.
And the new testing vial labeling system enables compliance with the data capture and retrieval conditions of FSMA. By deploying the AbeTech auto-identification solution, the dairy farm now has an agile information management system that allows rapid response to requests for records and information from regulatory agencies.