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Sampling and sampling plans

Taking a sample also includes an important decision: how to carry out the sampling and choose the right plan?

Food industry production operations inevitably include times when you need to perform the sampling to measure or evaluate the quality or properties of raw materials, ingredients, additives and products during manufacture or finished products.

Sampling also includes sampling plan and this is where it can get complicated. There is indeed an almost endless array of sampling methods and sampling plans that you can use to collect the samples needed for your evaluations.

How to choose a sampling method?

The first step is to determine what you want to sample, why you want to do it and whether or not you want to do an exhaustive sampling:

  • Exhaustive sampling will give us a more certain answer in terms of confidence level but will require taking a large number of samples

  • Normal or reduced sampling will give us a less certain result in terms of confidence level but will require taking a smaller number of samples.

  • The value of the sampled items will also guide you on the selection of the method:

    • the more the item has a great value , the more the tendency will be to choose a sampling method requiring a smaller number of samples

    • the more the sampled item is considered critical in a process, medical treatment, etc. the more the tendency will be to choose a sampling method requiring a greater number of samples

  • Another important question is whether you tolerate destructive sampling or not

  • Finally, it is important to know whether you will do a sampling by attribute (property of the product) or to measure a parameter in the form of an expected numerical value or not.

The best methods for the food industry

There are several sampling methods suitable for the food industry and the most reliable are those based on ISO standards. CODEX ALIEMTNARIUS sampling methods are a good choice as they are specifically developed for foods and also based on ISO standards.  CCMAS is a CODEX ALIMENTARIUS committee dedicated to food analysis and sampling methods.  It keeps them up to date and makes them accessible to everyone in several languages. Here is a link to the documents produced by this committee which will help you choose among several methods all applicable to the agrifood sector.

Another possibility to explore is methods based on military standards.

The sampling plan

And the sampling plan ?

Well the sampling plan comes most of the time with the method but there will still be choices to be made such as for example:

  • Single or double sampling

  • Exhaustive/intensive or normal level

  • Reduced or special level

  • Resampling or not

  • One or two levels

  • Etc.

How to choose the sampling plan?

It will depend:

  • Of each product

  • Of why you perform sampling

  • The desired level of confidence

  • If it is to comply with a regulatory compliance requirement for which the sampling method and plan are many times determined in advance

  • Customer requirements

We are able to help and support you in the choice of sampling methods and plans. This will allow you to better understand and demystify these tasks while allowing you to perform them with the confidence of choosing and using a method and an adequate sampling plan for each case. This will help improve your level of regulatory compliance as well as compliance with normative or customer requirements by using sampling methods and plans recognized by the regulatory authority and your customers. This will give more rigor to your approach as well as allow you to make better choices in terms of sampling.  This will also save you time and money, you will increase your efficiency and simplify the task.

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