Food Flavor and Safety. Molecular Analysis and Design


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Food authentication in complex supply chains

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Furthermore, industry and food producers are now collaborating to detect and eliminate food fraud by conducting widespread authenticity testing of target products. Pittcon will include a range of symposia, oral presentations, short courses, poster sessions and industry-sponsored demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies. The sessions on food safety will describe ground-breaking technological advances made to meet the challenges of ensuring that food sent to shop floors does not present a risk to consumer health and meets quality standards.

Pittcon will highlight how researchers are constantly adapting and enhancing existing technologies and devising innovative new solutions to detect ever-more complicated attempts to defraud consumers by some unscrupulous food manufacturers. The marketing of contaminated food and water can have far-reaching, and potentially devastating consequences.

The food industry therefore has to comply with strict quality regulations in order to safeguard the public from the potential contamination or adulteration of its products. In addition, food fraud has become increasingly common, for example the intentional mislabelling of consumables for financial gain.

Furthermore, in an age of widespread terrorism there is a real threat of intentional contamination of consumables. Sensitive analytical methodologies that allow easy and rapid analysis of food and drinks are thus needed to confirm the quality and purity of foodstuffs.

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Advances in the analytical technologies that are being used to ensure food safety and combat dishonest and deceitful practices were explored at Pittcon and are summarised in Latest Advances in Food Safety: an Industry Guide. Pittcon , which will take place in Orlando between 26th February and 1st March, will continue the theme of food safety and present the latest developments in the analysis of food and drink. Pittcon will feature presentations by leaders in the field of food analysis detailing the most recent advances and industry demonstrations of emerging technologies.

The globalized world of today makes it increasingly easy for food to be sold in geographically distant markets, and increasingly difficult for the origins of food to be determined. A given product may be produced in one country, packaged in another and sold in yet another, often thousands of miles away. The difficulties in fully tracking the history of imported foods has led to some manufacturers adopting unscrupulous tactics to increase their profit margins.

For example, using cheap substitutes in place of more expensive products. The challenges that regulators face is thus substantial and sophisticated technologies are needed to help protect the livelihoods of honest food suppliers. Fortunately, the concerted efforts of scientists and regulators mean that new technologies are continually being developed and improved to provide rapid means of analysis that provide the required sensitivity to detect deceitful practices.

Pittcon highlighted advances in NMR spectroscopy techniques to verify the authenticity of virgin olive oil and the origins of wine and honey. It also presented novel laser diffraction techniques to confirm the quality of coffee and chocolate and the novel application of ion chromatography to confirm the composition of dairy products. Furthermore, advances in genetic testing have facilitated a stamp-down on the mislabelling of fish.

Food supply chains today can be incredibly complex, with different raw ingredients being obtained from, and partially processed by a range of suppliers. There are therefore many stages at which there is the potential for contamination. To ensure consumer safety, sample testing is a key part of any food preparation protocol to ensure that the final marketed product is of suitable quality and poses no threat to the health of customers.

Ideally, there would be testing at every stage along the supply chain, and this is often the case among smaller businesses. However, larger manufactures may import their ingredients from a range of different suppliers and producers around the world, including countries with differing food safety legislation. In such cases, sampling at every point in the supply chain is not feasible and may not even be possible.

There is therefore the need for an element of trust that the suppliers are conducting adequate quality checks. Reduced sample testing is acceptable as long as the company has shown due diligence in ensuring the safety of their end product, which may be in the form of frequent random testing to monitor suppliers. In addition to deciding at which points sample testing should be implemented, there is a range of potential analyses available from which manufacturers need to select the most appropriate, for example, shelf-life, microbiological testing, allergen analysis, nutritional evaluation.

To help ensure that best food safety practices are adopted, food safety regulations have been introduced to protect the consumer. A variety of technologies are now available to food processing and manufacturing businesses to help them meet food safety requirements.

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One such advance to facilitate rapid, easy-to-use, on-site analytical evaluations is the development of the miniaturized mass spectrometer. Manufacturers of compact mini spectrometers, including Edinburgh instruments and Hamamatsu, will be in attendance at Pittcon Hamamatsu provides more than 20 types of mini-spectrometers that cover the spectral range from UV to near infrared. Further potential biomedical uses are discussed in Miniature Mass Spectrometry Instruments for Biomedical Applications.

Food Science – Science Emphasis

The changes are centred on an enhanced system of registration for all food businesses, which will be used by the department to apply proportionate, risk-based controls. They also include improved inspections process and greater support to help businesses meet the stringent and robust standards needed to ensure food safety. In addition, the Government Chemist Programme was introduced in , which comprises quarterly updates on food safety legislation to ensure consistent and accurate interpretation of chemical measurement data, and labelling of products.

Current legislation requires that the methods used for sampling and for laboratory analyses should meet scientific standards, satisfy the specific analytical, testing and diagnostic need of the laboratory concerned, and offer sound and reliable analytical, test and diagnostic results. The FDA uses sound analytical practices and methodologies, details of which are publically available, to routinely analyze commercially available food and food supplements to ensure that they are in compliance with applicable regulations.

This includes determination of the elements present and the resultant data are used to evaluate the extent and significance of these analytes in the food supply. The FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition CFSAN undergoes ongoing research to identify the best technologies and methodologies for the analysis of foodstuffs to ensure they pose no harm to consumers and are accurately labelled.

It also undertakes research to better understand factors that impact food safety and nutrition. The majority of the population are dependent on the food industry for at least some of their nutritional needs. Consequently, should a manufacturer market contaminated products, the effects would be wide-reaching and have potentially devastating consequences. The food industry has always striven to ensure that its products have not become contaminated during preparation. However, with the increase in global trade ensuring food quality poses an even greater challenge.

It is now often very difficult to trace the true origins of purchased ingredients and some unscrupulous manufacturers are taking advantage of this for financial gain. This is achieved by bulking out, or even replacing entirely, the product described on the label with similar cheaper alternatives. Where this occurs in a source material supplied to many different food industries, the deception is often perpetuated unwittingly. Furthermore, with rising levels of terrorism across the world, there is a real risk of products destined for mass marketing being intentionally contaminated with toxic substances or pathogens to cause widespread damage.

New legislations have thus been imposed on the food industry to minimise the risk of contaminated or adulterated foodstuffs reaching the consumer. Food manufacturers are now responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of the goods they sell.

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Consequently they need access to effective and cost-effective means for routine testing of their products. In , it was discovered, through routine proactive monitoring activities, that some beef products contained horse DNA. Consumers across Europe who thought they had bought beef products may therefore have unknowingly been consuming horse meat. Beef mixed with cheaper horse meat was sold as pure beef to several manufacturers of processed meat products, who proceeded to sell it in the form of frozen beef burgers, minced beef and ready meals.

The detection of the fraudulent adulteration of beef with horsemeat resulted in widespread recalls of such processed beef products. The scandal highlighted the complexity of food supply chains and the difficulty manufacturers faced in verifying the origins of foods obtained from their suppliers. Consequently, a range of investigations were instigated in the European Union across both retail and food service markets. An independent review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks commissioned by the UK government recommended eight pillars of food integrity: consumers first, zero tolerance, intelligence gathering, laboratory services, audit, government support, leadership and crisis management.

Four years after the recommendations were published, industry attitudes have changed substantially. Food testing and surveillance systems are now integrated into normal practice within the food industry. In addition, the UK government has establishment of the National Food Crime Unit to help protect consumers against similar incidents occurring in the future. Honey has become a prime target for food fraud and the adoption of deceitful practices to boost profit margins.

The types of adulteration being practiced include mixing honey with cheap sugar syrups to artificially increase the volume of honey that can be marketed, and intentionally mis-labelling the geographic origin of the honey. Honey may be incorrectly labelled as being harvested from countries or areas with particular floral varieties for which consumers are willing to pay a premium. The criminals implementing such dishonest marketing filter pollen out of the honey to try and prevent detection of its true origins.

The sugar syrups most commonly used to adulterate honey are corn syrup, industrial glucose and fructose. A range of analytical methodologies, both existing and novel, have been developed to verify the authenticity of honey and bring an end to such unscrupulous practices. Various chromatography techniques can be used, but these often involve complex and time-consuming methodologies. Consequently, spectroscopy techniques, such as nuclear magnetic resonance, are increasingly being used to screen for honey adulteration.

Most recently, isotope ratio mass spectrometry IRMS has been shown to be a particularly powerful tool in the analysis of honey.

see IRMS analysis measures the ratio of a rare isotope to a common isotope. Honey is derived from C3 plants whereas corn syrups are derived from C4 plants. Unfortunately, the natural variability of honey from different regions and floral sources makes it difficult to conclusively determine whether C4 sugars have been added. However, authentic honey contains enzymes produced by the bees to catalyse the inversion of sucrose to fructose and glucose.

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These proteins provide an internal standard, representing the value close to that of the unadulterated honey. An European Union report on detecting honey adulteration recommends liquid chromatography-IRMS for adoption as the standard methodology for the analysis of honey. They also propose the establishment of a centralised repository of authentic honey samples to develop purity criteria for EU honeys. Spectroscopic technologies are also used to verify the grape variety content of a wine and to validate its vintage and country of origin.


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At Pittcon , Bruker presented the addition of wine-profiling module to its NMR FoodScreener which is able to assign origin for the major wine-producing countries and can also assign region for several parts of France, Italy and Spain. It is also able to detect 22 different grape varieties and a more recent feature is the addition of vintage validation.

Spectral fingerprints obtained from genuine wines are used to quickly check that the protected designation of origin stated on the label accurately describes the contents. The increasing globalization of food trade has raised new issues for ensuring food safety.

Food manufacturers now commonly use ingredients and partly processed products sourced from suppliers all around the world. It is therefore becoming more difficult to be sure of the origins and purity of many food products. Recent scandals, such as the melamine in milk and horsemeat in beef incidents, show how easily food contamination and fraud can go undetected and be perpetuated across wide geographical areas.

Although the technologies historically used to confirm food safety effectively identified the presence of selected known potential contaminants, they did not highlight the presence of unexpected compounds. Consequently, the addition of melamine to milk was not highlighted in tests.

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It thus became apparent that in order to have confidence in the safety and authenticity of manufactured food products non-targeted screening methods were also needed. Pittcon will feature presentations and exhibits from industry leaders, who are working to create novel food safety technologies to provide enhanced protection for food producers and consumers. FDA laboratories perform a wide range of sample analyses and they describe sound analytical practices in the Elemental Analysis Manual for Food and Related Products EAM , which provides a useful reference document when selecting an appropriate analytical methodology.

The inclusion of non-targeted screening into routine quality assurance testing called for cost-effective, broad-scope, easy-to-use analytical technologies. Advances in nuclear magnetic resonance NMR spectroscopy has proved particularly valuable in this respect. NMR can combine detection, identification, and quantification of both key known ingredients and unanticipated contaminants and adulterants.


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NMR provides non-destructive screening that can identify even trace quantities of adulterants or contaminants. Furthermore, it allows combination of targeted and non-targeted analyses enabling confirmation of the presence of expected ingredients and the absence of undesirable components in a single process.

NMR screening of food is now fully automated, operated by the push of a button, and standardized and validated procedures ensure consistency and compliance between different sites.

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