Food Testing


The Evolution of Laboratory Food Testing Procedures

Food testing is one of the many tasks stipulated by various authorities and undertaken by specialists, commonly in the public sector, that are seen as necessary to ensure the safety of consumers. While the concept is not a new one, advances in both knowledge and technology have led to a rather more scientific approach than in earlier times. Since Roman times and probably far earlier, tasters were employed for this purpose and their role was as much about protecting their employers against attempted poisoning, as about the actual quality of the consumables. Determining the palatability of a meal was essentially something founded upon the evidence of the eyes and the nose.

The work of microbiologists, such as Pasteur, revealed the dangers of certain microorganisms in food and the need for bacteriological testing, but the prevailing state of technology made this a slow and exacting business that was more of academic interest, rather than of any practical value at that time. Only with the advent of faster and more specific methods for the detection and quantitation of pathogens, did large-scale screening, such as that carried out in laboratories within the food and beverage industry, become feasible.

Initially, the focus was confined to the detection of organisms associated with gastroenteritis, such as salmonella and E. coli and, when their roles became apparent, others like Listeria and Campylobacter. With the vast growth in the processed food industry, more diverse testing is now required to ensure that products conform to new and more stringent legislation. Much of this new legislation relates to labelling and concerns accurate listing of the names and concentrations of nutrients and artificial additives, as well as statements indicating the confirmed presence, possible presence or absence of any potential allergens.

This has meant that both quantitative and qualitative procedures routinely form part of the screening process and that researchers within the industry have been required to develop or adapt new technologies in their efforts to ensure faster and more reliable results. Without a doubt, among the leading companies leveraging these technologies for the development of advanced reagents and equipment for food safety testing today, are Neogen and CDR Systems.

Between them, these companies address all aspects of the manufacturing process, from determining levels of hygiene in the preparation areas and among workers, to the detection of pathogens, allergens, bacterial toxins and the quantitation of various nutrients in the finished products. To meet these needs, they offer a wide range of kits that are able to analyse multiple samples simultaneously and to produce rapid and dependable results.

Among the products they are best known for are kits for the detection and quantitation of allergens such as beta-lactoglobulin and casein in milk products, tree and ground nuts, Crustacea, gluten and soy. Different kits provide the means to test for their presence in finished foods and beverages, or on environmental surfaces where this could present the risk of contamination. Other products include kits for the rapid analysis of fats and oils to determine free fatty acid content, peroxide and anisidine values.

IEPSA is a long-established importer and distributor of products used to analyse food, water, pharmaceuticals and in several other areas of safety testing. We are happy to advise and assist you with all your laboratory needs.

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