The quality of the cell culture media used in biopharmaceutical manufacturing is a crucial factor affecting bioprocess performance and the quality of the final product. Due to their complex composition these media are inherently unstable, and significant compositional variations can occur particularly when in the prepared liquid state. For example photo-degradation of cell culture media can have adverse effects on cell viability and thus process performance. There is therefore, from quality control, quality assurance and process management view points, an urgent demand for the development of rapid and inexpensive tools for the stability monitoring of these complex mixtures. Spectroscopic methods, based on fluorescence or Raman measurements, have now become viable alternatives to more time-consuming and expensive (on a unit analysis cost) chromatographic and/or mass spectrometry based methods for routine analysis of media. Here we demonstrate the application of surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) spectroscopy for the simple, fast, analysis of cell culture media degradation. Once stringent reproducibility controls are implemented, chemometric data analysis methods can then be used to rapidly monitor the compositional changes in chemically defined media. SERS shows clearly that even when media are stored at low temperature (2-8 degrees C) and in the dark, significant chemical changes occur, particularly with regard to cysteine/cystine concentration. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.