Quality assurance is critical for food and drug manufacturers. Quality assurance helps to ensure that products are produced consistently and safely, a critical component of GxP compliance, which in turn reduces the risk of adverse health effects for consumers. Quality assurance also helps manufacturers identify and address problems quickly, allowing them to take corrective action before a food or pharmaceutical product is released to the market. The processes these manufacturers establish and follow consistently help to increase consumer confidence and, in turn, increase customer loyalty and sales. Every food and drug manufacturer needs to account for 21 CFR Part 11 in their cybersecurity risk management strategy.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a significant role in ensuring that food and drug manufacturers prioritize quality assurance. The FDA has many responsibilities; however, it is primarily tasked with setting standards for safety and efficacy, reviewing premarket applications for new foods and drugs, inspecting facilities, and ensuring that product labels accurately reflect the contents of the product. The FDA also has enforcement power. It takes action against manufacturers who fail to comply with these standards and also helps to ensure that recalls of unsafe products are handled quickly and properly, and transparently.

What Is 21 CFR Part 11?

Data, namely data collection, processing, and collaboration, are important components of quality assurance. Data collected from inspections, premarket application reviews, surveys, and other activities can be used to identify trends in quality, safety, and efficacy, allowing manufactures to take corrective action as needed. By analyzing data, manufacturers can identify areas in need of improvement, as well as areas in which existing processes are working well. This sensitive data needs to be handled responsibly to protect manufacturers’ intellectual property and their customers’ privacy. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 21 Part 11 outlines the requirements for electronic records and electronic signatures in FDA-regulated industries. 21 CFR Part 11 compliance is critical for organizations to maintain data integrity and enhance quality control. This article provides an overview of 21 CFR Part 11 compliance, including its background, benefits, and challenges. We will also explore strategies, tools, and best practices to help organizations achieve and maintain 21 CFR Part 11 compliance.

Background of 21 CFR Part 11

The FDA established 21 CFR Part 11 in 1997 in response to the rapid growth in the use of computer systems in medical product manufacturing, clinical research, and other medical functions. 21 CFR Part 11, as a result, aims to protect public health and safety with data privacy. With data privacy, organizations ensure the accuracy and integrity of electronically stored or transmitted data that is used in the manufacturing of food and medical products or even documented clinical research.

21 CFR Part 11 ensures that any data stored or exchanged electronically is secure, accurate, and reliable. It also requires companies to adhere to certain standards of data security. Additionally, 21 CFR Part 11 requires that companies have clear auditing and security protocols in place, critical components of a security risk management program program, as well as procedures that make sure that the data is used correctly.

Industries that must comply with 21 CFR Part 11 include:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medical devices
  • Food and beverages
  • Biotechnology
  • Chemicals
  • Cosmetics
  • Healthcare

What Does 21 CFR Part 11 Require Related to Electronic Signatures?

21 CFR Part 11 requires that electronic signatures used to authenticate and approve electronic records must be unique to each person and able to be verified by independent means. Electronic signature authenticity is important for compliance with 21 CFR Part 11 so that companies can authenticate messages and documents securely. Electronic signature authentication can also help relevant industries meet security requirements, such as access control and audit trails, to ensure that electronic records are kept up to date. Electronic signature authentication also helps to ensure that records are legally binding, as it provides a verifiable record of who has signed and accepted a document. As such, it is a critical component of meeting the requirements of 21 CFR Part 11 and helping organizations maintain compliance.

Additionally, the system used to create and maintain the records must include reasonable controls to ensure the accuracy, authenticity, and reliability of the records and to protect the confidentiality of the signature. It also requires that the system used to create and maintain the records must keep an audit log of all changes made.

Requirements of 21 CFR Part 11

In order to comply with 21 CFR Part 11 requirements, organizations must implement various critical requirements including:

  1. Record Retention: Organizations must keep all electronic records for at least a two-year period. Organizations must also ensure that the records are secure and accessible.
  2. Security and Access Controls: Organizations must establish policies and procedures that address access and use of electronic records. This includes controlling physical access and implementing user authentication.
  3. Audit Trails: Organizations must have a reliable audit trail that records all activities related to electronic records. This includes date and time stamps, access logs, and system actions.
  4. System Validation: Organizations must have a system validation process that ensures all systems remain unchanged throughout the production process.
  5. Data Integrity: Organizations must ensure that all data is accurate, consistent, and complete.
  6. Electronic Signatures: Organizations must ensure that all electronic records are signed with an electronic signature. The signature should be traceable, unique to each user, and secure.
  7. Documentation: Organizations must document all processes related to the implementation, maintenance, and use of their systems.
  8. Training: Organizations must ensure that all personnel understand and follow all policies and procedures.
  9. Compliance: Organizations must have a system in place to track, document, and demonstrate compliance with 21 CFR Part 11.

Benefits of 21 CFR Part 11 Compliance

21 CFR Part 11 compliance, while onerous, offers several benefits for organizations in relevant industries,. Generally speaking, regulatory compliance helps organizations ensure the security, accuracy, and integrity of electronic records and signatures and that any data gathered meets the requirements of the FDA. This helps protect against potential lawsuits due to inaccuracies in data and increases consumer confidence in the products that are being offered.

21 CFR Part 11 compliance also helps protect organizations from potential data breaches, as it requires enhanced security measures to be in place and monitored for any unauthorized access to data. Additionally, Part 11 compliance helps make data collection and management more efficient. This can free up resources, improve customer service, and reduce the time spent on mundane tasks. Additional benefits include:

Increased Data Security and Integrity

By implementing the requirements outlined in 21 CFR Part 11, organizations can ensure that their electronic records and signatures are secure, authentic, and reliable.

Enhanced Quality Control and Accountability

21 CFR Part 11 compliance promotes the use of consistent and standardized record-keeping practices, which can help organizations improve their quality control processes and maintain accountability for their data.

Improved Regulatory Compliance and Risk Management

By complying with the requirements of 21 CFR Part 11, organizations can ensure that they are meeting the regulatory standards and minimize their risk of noncompliance, which can lead to costly penalties and fines.


Challenges of 21 CFR Part 11 Compliance

Despite its benefits, 21 CFR Part 111 compliance poses several challenges for organizations. Demonstrating compliance with 21 CFR Part 11, for example, can be complicated, time-consuming, and costly because it requires a comprehensive system to ensure that data is secure and protected from unauthorized access, alteration, and destruction. The requirements are comprehensive and detailed, and a system must be designed, developed, tested, and implemented to meet them. This process often involves significant IT investments, as well as modifications to existing systems. Further, organizations must maintain records and provide documentation to demonstrate compliance and prove that all activities have been conducted as prescribed in the regulations. This process can take a significant amount of time and money to complete. Additional challenges include:

Complexity of the Regulations

21 CFR Part 11 is a complex regulation that requires a thorough understanding of the requirements and their implications.

High Cost of Implementation and Maintenance

The implementation and maintenance of 21 CFR Part 11 compliance measures can be costly, particularly for small organizations. These requirements all have considerable costs that organizations must consider when demonstrating 21 CFR Part 11 compliance:

  1. Training: Training of personnel on how to use the system and how to properly follow the rules for electronic recordkeeping and electronic signatures must be provided.
  2. Auditing: An audit of system controls, logs, and user activities should be conducted to ensure the system is functioning properly and that all user activities are being monitored.
  3. System Modifications: Any changes to the system must be tested and verified to ensure they are compliant.
  4. Documentation: A detailed document outlining the system and its requirements must be written and maintained.
  5. Validation: Regular validation of the system must be conducted to ensure system accuracy and compliance.
  6. Records Retention: An efficient system must be in place to properly manage and store all records and information.
  7. Third-party Assessment: An independent third-party assessment is necessary to prove compliance with regulatory requirements.

Potential Impact on Productivity and Efficiency

Preparing for 21 CFR Part 11 compliance can have a significant impact on an organization’s productivity and efficiency. It requires updating systems and processes, training for employees, and ensuring all documentation is kept up to date. It may also require making changes to the software used to store data and run applications, as well as implementing new security measures to ensure data integrity. This could lead to an initial decrease in productivity and efficiency while these changes are implemented.

Strategies for Achieving 21 CFR Part 11 Compliance

21 CFR Part 11 is an important part of protecting data integrity and staying compliant with the FDA. Developing a well-thought-out strategy certainly helps. A clearly defined strategy should include key elements like an audit trail, log maintenance, and data governance, as well as closely monitoring access and setting up security measures to keep the data secure. Implementing these strategies will ensure that all compliance with 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulatory requirements are being met and the data is safe and secure. To achieve 21 CFR Part 11 compliance, organizations can implement the following strategies:

Risk Assessment and Gap Analysis

A risk assessment and gap analysis is an important step in achieving 21 CFR Part 11 compliance. This involves evaluating the organization’s electronic records and signature systems to determine the areas where compliance measures are needed. A risk assessment helps identify potential risks and vulnerabilities, both from an internal and external perspective. It is also important to consider any existing gaps between the existing system and the requirements of 21 CFR Part 11.

Validation and Testing Procedures

Validation and testing procedures can help organizations ensure that the electronic records and signatures systems meet the requirements of 21 CFR Part 11. This involves testing the systems to ensure that records remain accurate, accessible, and secure. The validation process can also help identify any issues or errors in the system that may need to be addressed before it can be certified as compliant.

Employee Training and Education

Employee training and education is an important part of achieving 21 CFR Part 11 compliance. Employees should be educated on the requirements of the regulation and on how to effectively implement compliance measures. Training programs can ensure that employees understand the risks and responsibilities of working with electronic records and signatures, and that they know how to use the system securely and effectively.

Documentation and Record-keeping Practices

To help ensure compliance, businesses must establish and maintain comprehensive documentation and record-keeping practices, including the creation of detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) and policies. Employees should be trained on these procedures and policies, and businesses should regularly review and update their documentation to ensure ongoing compliance.

Tools and Technologies for 21 CFR Part 11 Compliance

There are a variety of tools and technologies that can assist businesses in achieving 21 CFR Part 11 compliance. Some of these include:

Electronic Signature and Record-keeping Software

This software can help businesses create and manage electronic records, as well as enable electronic signatures that are compliant with 21 CFR Part 11 requirements.

Cloud-based Solutions and Data Storage Options

These solutions can help businesses store and manage data securely, while also ensuring that the data is accessible to authorized personnel as required by the regulations.

Automation and Process Control Systems

These systems can help businesses ensure that their processes are compliant with 21 CFR Part 11 by providing automated tracking and documentation of critical data.

Best Practices for Maintaining 21 CFR Part 11 Compliance

To maintain compliance with 21 CFR Part 11, businesses should establish ongoing monitoring and review processes to ensure that their systems and procedures remain compliant. This can include conducting regular risk assessments and gap analyses, as well as implementing regular updates and upgrades to their systems and technologies.

Collaboration and communication with regulators and stakeholders is also important, as it can help businesses stay up to date with regulatory changes and receive guidance on best practices for maintaining compliance.

Businesses should also strive to create a corporate culture of compliance by including compliance training in their onboarding and ongoing employee training processes. By educating their personnel on regulatory requirements, expectations, and procedures, businesses can help ensure that employees understand the importance of data accuracy and integrity. Employees should also be encouraged to review documentation and audit logs regularly to identify areas of risk and determine if additional measures are necessary.

For the sake of optimal security and compliance, businesses should also consider utilizing third-party vendors to ensure that their systems are secure. This may include engaging the services of experienced IT professionals who can conduct regular security audits, as well as utilize encryption technologies, like two-factor authentication, to prevent unauthorized access. Investing in a secure and reliable backup system can be invaluable as well, as it can help businesses protect data in the event of an emergency situation.

Additionally, businesses should have written policies in place that are regularly updated and audited to include procedures and protocols for handling data and records. This should also discuss processes for verifying data accuracy, as well as establishing security protocols and procedures. By documenting these processes and making them easily accessible to personnel, businesses can help ensure their data remains secure and compliant.

It is important to note that strong record-keeping and audit trails should always be implemented to ensure 21 CFR Part 11 compliance. Any changes to documents must be tracked and logged, and any discrepancies must be addressed immediately. By creating detailed and consistent audit logs, businesses can be assured that their systems remain compliant and secure.

By following these best practices and investing in the necessary measures, businesses can rest assured that their systems are secure and compliant with 21 CFR Part 11 requirements. With a proper and well-maintained compliance program, businesses can save themselves and their stakeholders headaches and costly fines in the long run.

Demonstrating Adherence With 21 CFR Part 11 Compliance Using Kiteworks

Compliance with 21 CFR Part 11 is critical for businesses operating in industries regulated by the FDA. By implementing the right strategies, tools, and technologies, and maintaining ongoing monitoring and review processes, businesses can achieve and maintain compliance with 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulatory compliance requirements, including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and best practices like GxP.

Organizations regulated by the FDA can benefit from the Kiteworks-enabled Private Content Network, which enables them to securely send, share, receive, and store sensitive data within and outside of their organizations. Kiteworks allows them to securely share files, communicate securely with customers, and collaborate with colleagues around the world. Kiteworks also offers advanced security features, such as encryption, two-factor authentication, and geolocation tracking to help keep data safe and secure. In addition to the above, Kiteworks allows organizations to easily scale up storage capacity and add users as needed, providing the flexibility and scalability needed to support data-led businesses.

Organizations seeking compliance with 21 CFR Part 11 can request a custom-tailored demo to learn how Kiteworks protects, governs, and controls intellectual property and other confidential information.


Back to Risk & Compliance Glossary

Get started.

It’s easy to start ensuring regulatory compliance and effectively managing risk with Kiteworks. Join the thousands of organizations who feel confident in their content communications platform today. Select an option below.


Avec Kiteworks, se mettre en conformité règlementaire et bien gérer les risques devient un jeu d’enfant. Rejoignez dès maintenant les milliers de professionnels qui ont confiance en leur plateforme de communication de contenu. Cliquez sur une des options ci-dessous.

Jetzt loslegen.

Mit Kiteworks ist es einfach, die Einhaltung von Vorschriften zu gewährleisten und Risiken effektiv zu managen. Schließen Sie sich den Tausenden von Unternehmen an, die sich schon heute auf ihre Content-Kommunikationsplattform verlassen können. Wählen Sie unten eine Option.

Get A Demo