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Calibration standards, performance audits, and the FDA's never-ending safety, labeling, and inspection requirements are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dealing with the increasingly stringent quality control standards of the beverage industry.

As these quality standards become stricter, beverage producers are increasingly called upon to get products to market faster using fewer resources, while simultaneously managing ingredient quality, and ultimately, risk.

Mix rigorous regulations and mounting market challenges with exploding competition and the opportunity for enormous economic reward, and it becomes obvious that products must be perfect the first time around to fulfill production requirements, comply with distribution standards, and ultimately provide each consumer with the exact same exceptional product every time.

All of which makes quality control more necessary than ever.

Quality Assurance in the beverage industry starts by ensuring that top quality gases are used to perform the carbonation process and continues through the bottling and distributing process with a high-tech quality control examination.

On the top of the list of gases regulated in the world of drink is carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main components of many of the beverages produced today, including soda, beer, sparkling water, and sports drinks. CO2 has also become a major constituent of orange juice through supercritical CO2 processing during pasteurization and has even entered the world of dairy with the addition of "Refreshing Power Milk," a new carbonated milk hybrid, to the refreshments market.

Leading beverage manufacturers in this $700 billion industry are taking the critical step to ensure purity of beverage-grade CO2 by using analytical support gases and quality assurance services. Since ensuring purity of CO2 is such a crucial factor in the beverage production process, choosing a specialty gas company to provide purification, calibration, and cross-reference services for your products should be a priority.

Keep in mind that specialty gas companies outside of the beverage industry hold a uniquely favorable position as authoritative and neutral third-party qualifiers. These companies provide experience in developing trace contaminant calibration standards as well as independence from the supply and certification of beverage grade CO2, which helps to ensure unbiased statistical and graphical reporting.

Regardless of the industry from which the service company originates, it is vital that it provides specialized service in the CO2 industry and adheres to industry standards on commercial quality with regard to CO2.

Some more guidelines to consider when choosing a Quality Control Specialty Gas Service: * Your CO2 supplier should provide certification and analysis indicating compliance with commercial quality standards, such as ISBT, the International Society of Beverage Technologists

* Your quality assurance service company should have the resources available to create custom gas mixtures for CO2 ingredient quality control. Typical components include (but are not limited to) the following: Methane Ethane Ethanol Dimethyl Ether Ethyl Acetate Methanol Ammonia Nitric Oxide Nitrogen Dioxide Carbonyl Sulfide Acetaldehyde Benzene Cyclohexane Ethylbenzene Diethyl Ether Toluene m-Xylene p-Xylene o-Xylene

* Preparing two sets of gas mixtures should be standard procedure for your chosen service company, with double analysis of each set to check for minor component stability, and guarantee a shelf life for the components.

* To further assure accurate results, your service company should identify inaccuracies and verify analytical processes by having participant labs analyze blind internal audit standards.

* Your service company should furnish a report to your company's quality control department detailing analytical results, including a statistical representation of the performance of each participant laboratory.

* Membership in the International Society of Beverage Technologists (ISBT) Quality Committee, Carbon Dioxide Subcommittee, should be maintained in order to keep abreast of emerging analytical methods and technologies within the beverage industry.

* Top of the line service companies will provide CO2 Cross-Referencing Services to confirm the accuracy of critical analytical processes. These programs provide beverage manufacturers with a reliable and objective method of monitoring the performance of multiple laboratories who qualify carbon dioxide used in carbonated beverages as well as confirm ingredient quality. Cross-Referencing Service should be considered in order to:

Achieve the highest degree of confidence in the accuracy of analyses; Confidentially identify inconsistencies or other problems in analytical processes; and Maintain reliable and accurate intra-company quality assurance.

Most importantly, make sure the service company has top rate Internal CO2 Audit Standards to meet the most demanding accuracy requirements for virtually any type of customized mixture and that a Certificate of Accuracy is provided for each cylinder.

By choosing a Quality Control Specialty Gas Service carefully, your company can be sure to keep pace with the ever-expanding list of regulations -- and quite possibly gain an even larger piece of this multi-billion dollar pie.

This article is copyrighted by Scott Gases. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part and may not be posted on other websites, without the express written permission of the author who may be contacted via email at [email protected]