What is the purpose of keeping retention samples?

Welcome to the new look format for HACCP Mentor Review. Each episode and review will now cover a HACCP Food safety compliance topic, an explanation of ‘why’ a clause in a GFSI standard is required, a useful reference document to help with increasing your HACCP food safety knowledge and a topic from the HACCP Mentor vault. Just so it isn’t all dry and technical, I will also share some of my favourite weird and wacky experiences and observations. I hope you enjoy the new format and maybe (just maybe) learn something new or even remember something old.

What is the purpose of keeping retention samples?

The purpose of keeping retention samples is to support or verify the food products shelf life period, quality, microbiological, physical and chemical attributes.  Retention samples may also be used as part of complaint investigations. When keeping retention samples of your food product, keep in mind the following:

Ensure the sample is retained in the same packaging in which it is sold to the consumer.

Ensure that you keep a quantity that is sufficient to undertake relevant testing including microbiological, chemical and sensory analysis.

Retain samples for a minimum of the products shelf life. It is useful to include an addition 10% on top of the shelf life to allow for additional food safety considerations (eg. customer consuming the product past the stated expiry date).

Ensure you keep the sample secure and at the recommended environmental conditions. You don’t want your retention samples spoiled or infested with pests.

  • Ensure the sample is retained in the same packaging in which it is sold to the consumer.
  • Ensure that you keep a quantity that is sufficient to undertake relevant testing including microbiological, chemical and sensory analysis.
  • Retain samples for a minimum of the products shelf life. It is useful to include an addition 10% on top of the shelf life to allow for additional food safety considerations (eg. customer consuming the product past the stated expiry date).
  • Ensure you keep the sample secure and at the recommended environmental conditions. You don’t want your retention samples spoiled or infested with pests.

Ensure you keep the sample secure and at the recommended environmental conditions. You don’t want your retention samples spoiled or infested with pests.

The majority of GFSI standards require end of shelf life testing to be undertaken with records maintained of this testing. Maintaining retention samples helps to achieve compliance with these requirements.

From the Vault

The majority of food businesses use knives within the production department. One of the problems that can happen however is keeping control of these objects. There are plenty of examples of when full knives and parts of knives have ended up in finished product because they have not been controlled. The most effective method that I have seen for control is to set up a “knife control shadow board”. To see an example check out our post from the vault on “Knife Control in a food business”.

Check it out by clicking here

Labelling Chemical Containers

One of the requirements that needs to be included in your chemical control program is for all chemicals to be labelled and identifiable at all times. By having clear chemical identification, the risk of inadvertent use or contamination can be minimised. It will also ensure that the correct chemical is use in the correct manner.

Salmonella Serotype

Getting Technical – Salmonella Serotypes

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonellosis accounts for more than 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths each year in the USA. If you think that your business is immune from being a source of salmonella contamination – think again. It is reported that an estimated 29.3 cases of salmonellosis occur for every one that is laboratory confirmed and reported.

It is estimated that there is over 2,500 different types of Salmonella, also known as serotypes. It is interesting to note that each serotype has a unique history and behaves differently in how often they sicken people, when and where people get sick, and what foods or other sources they contaminate. Salmonella Enteritidis is the most common Salmonella serotype in the US and many other countries.

If you are interested in seeing which serotype is applicable to your food business location, target consumer, raw materials or finished product – Check out “An Atlas of Salmonella”. You can find the link in the show notes to this episode.

Is it second nature?

I recently had to complete my witness audit as part of my auditor renewal certification process. After the audit had finished, I asked the food business owner had he ever had anything go wrong during an audit. Now, we all know that sometimes during an audit, food handlers tend to forget where they are and what they are doing. Put it down to nerves or maybe it really is just second nature to them. The food auditor was standing watching a food handler clean out a dough mixing bowl. To do this it involves scraping down the inside of the bowl with a plastic scraper. On this occasion, the food handler decided to then scratch the back and side of his head repeatedly with the scraper. The auditor had turned away at this time but the business owner said he nearly died on the spot. As you can imagine, the food handler no longer works for the business.

Wrap Up

Well that wraps up the first “new look” format of HACCP Mentor Review. I hope that you enjoyed it. If you have any topics that you would like me to cover in the coming weeks just let me know. Until next time, I am Amanda Evans, and you have been checking out HACCP Mentor Review.

21 thoughts on “What is the purpose of keeping retention samples?”

  1. We create Pet Treats at our facility and I would like to know how long do I have to keep retention samples for. We have samples that date 18 months back and that was their norm, but it is taking up a lot of space and we are continuing to produce. Thank you

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Hi Chris, thanks for your question. It really depends on ‘why’ you want to keep the retention samples in the first place. Is it a regulatory requirement? Is it to confirm shelf life? Is it to confirm packaging integrity over time? Is it to monitor the stability of quality or safety over time? Is it for the purpose of product issue investigation? When you work out your ‘why’ this will then provide clarity around how long you should keep the retention sample.

  2. Hi! I work in a biodiesel manufacturing company and I would like to know if there is a reference manual/document for sample retention, whether how long I should Keep the sample and the needed conditions for storage environment

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Hi Gled, unfortunately I am unable to answer as my expertise is not in the biodiesel industry. Maybe someone else in the HACCP Mentor community can chime in here to advise further.

  3. Pingback: 8 Facts About Quality Control Technicians | FoodGrads Blog

  4. Please provide reference for the statement “The majority of GFSI standards require end of shelf life testing…” I would like to reference these in relation to establishment of a retention program that has been mandated by my company’s insurance carrier. What standards is this mentioned in and what section of each code can I look at for specifics?

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Thanks for the question Greg. Please check with each individual standard. You can access any of the GFSI accreditated standards through their individual websites. Eg SQF, BRC, FSSC 22000, IFS etc.

  5. silindile makhanya

    hi Amanda
    I would to know as I am working in a biltong factory how do I do the retention sample what is it that I must use please provide me with the information

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Hi Silindile…… You can follow the points laid out in this blog post. Your retention sample is a sample that you take from your production run and store for a set period of time (usually the shelf life of the product).

  6. Hi Amanda

    I work in a beveragre industry, wanted to know for how long a retention sample should be kept in the plant. Is there any standard issued by the FDA

    Thank you
    Dhanya

    1. Thanks for your question Dhanya. It really depends on the shelf life of your product and any over-arching customer requirements.

  7. Hi Amanda,
    I work in a Sauce Factory, I was just wondering if it is safe to put the retention samples and finished products in one big room?Thanks

    1. AS long as there is no chance of cross-contamination and the temperature is correct for both products, I don’t see a problem Eden.

  8. Hi Amanda
    In the hospital setting, we retain a plate of food from each meal served. Our retention time is 72 hours. do you know of a guidance document that I can refer to, in order to verify?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Joy, Thanks for your comment. I don’t have anything available but I suggest that you check the hospital regs in your country of manufacture. You may also go back to the person who wrote your procedure and ask where they came up with the time frame.

    2. Yes, you are right as per the law of ministry of health, food samples will be retained for 03 days in refrigerator and for 05 days in freezer.

      Thanks

  9. Hello Amanda, hope you are well.
    I agree with you on sample retention, but was wondering if it is also important to retain samples of raw material forming the product? Thanks.

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