It’s Your Data!

June 06, 2023

A message to food and beverage producers about food safety data: It is YOUR data. You should be able to see all of it without limitation.

This may seem obvious. “Of course, it is our data…”, most say when we speak to leaders at large food processing and manufacturing companies.

But this is not always aligned to actual behavior.

Many large food processing and manufacturing companies utilize a range of lab services providers to execute their environmental and product testing requirements/needs. This is a smart way of outsourcing the work as well as protecting the company from liabilities involved with proper certification, accreditation, and regulatory scrutiny.

The way that food suppliers and lab services companies exchange information within this process is changing with the advent of digital management of testing programs. The “old way” is rapidly morphing to a “new way”, a digitally transformed method, that offers significant benefits toward lowering risk and cost associated with accuracy and “time-to-information”.


The Old Way

Briefly, here is what has been the traditional approach:

  • Testing is scheduled manually – in a spreadsheet or on a whiteboard.
  • Information collected from testing execution was sent from the food producer to their lab in the form of a SARF (Sample Analysis Request Form) – usually printed on paper with the sample kits sent to the lab services location.
  • The lab then enters the required sampling into their LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) and runs the diagnostic process.
  • Results are then sent back to the food supplier via an email with a PDF attachment from the LIMS output, or just information in the body of the email.
  • The food supplier’s food safety team then manually enters this information into a spreadsheet, and/or prints and stores the CoA (Certificate of Analysis) in a 3-ring binder that is then placed onto a shelf to be accessed later during an audit or other need for data retrieval.


The New Way

“Digital transformation” is a buzz word, but it’s also a very real process and wave of advancement overtaking the food safety function throughout the Food and Beverage industry. Here is how “the new way” is working:

  • Food suppliers are adopting digital workflow and analytics solutions that automate the scheduling, execution, and collection of environmental and product samples.
  • A digital SARF is produced from the workflow software platform and automatically sent to the lab services provider upon completion of the collection process.
  • A digital integration is established with the lab services provider to enable flow of the electronic SARF into the lab’s LIMS.
  • Diagnostic results are then produced and sent digitally back to the food supplier’s workflow and analytics platform in real-time with no additional data entry needed.
  • Any non-conforming results automatically trigger the corrective action protocols appropriate for the given anomaly based on your organization’s SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).


This “new way” offers many benefits to the food supplier and lab services company alike. A future blog post will go into that in greater detail but suffice to say it should be obvious that less human-based manual data entry and updates, and fewer transfers of data from paper to PDFs, binders and rows within a spreadsheet, should and does result in less human error, greater accuracy, and improved efficiency. The time-to-information and adherence to regulatory requirements also drastically improves as automated alerts come into play.

But this is not what this blog is about.

This blog is really about data ownership and visibility to all of your data.

One of the most important considerations when starting down the digital path to “the new way” is simply having a clear definition of objectives around data handling, access, and ownership. In “the new way”, data types such as diagnostic results in CoA’s, complex testing program information, corrective action policies, and more, will be digitally produced, shared, and utilized. This is already becoming the new normal.

The handling and exchange of this sensitive and mission-critical data will require that 3rd-party stakeholders, such as lab services companies, testing device companies, and software providers, have access and rights to use your most sensitive information – microbiological diagnostic data. Therefore, it is critical that control of the data, and “what happens to your data” be considered up-front before you enter into agreements with 3rd-parties.

Many lab services companies offer a digital approach to handling SARFs and diagnostic results. They offer portals and some even offer software to help automate your testing program and the purchase of swab kits and other means of executing your testing process.

The question you should ask your lab services provider is this: “What happens to my data if I stop using your lab services?” or “I use multiple labs… will your software incorporate competing lab info so I can see all of my data?”

This is why Neogen is taking an open approach to this challenge. We realize that any changes you decide to make to your mix of testing execution should not affect your access to and use of your most critical data. We have designed our Neogen Analytics platform to be both data and source agnostic – open to all laboratory, LIMS, device, and other data sources… even sources owned by our competitors. We did this because we realize that food suppliers must protect their investments in whatever mix of testing services and devices they deem best to meet their unique needs.


Because it is your data! Our role is to be a trusted 3rd-party steward of your data. As such, we see our open approach as the only viable way forward into the “new era” of smarter, digitally enabled, food safety.

If you would like to learn more, consider signing up for a demo and one of our experts will walk you through Neogen Analytics.

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Category: Food Safety, Dietary Supplements, Food & Beverage, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, Microbiology, Pathogens, Bacterial Sequencing, Environmental Monitoring