The food industry has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months due to adulterated pet food, Salmonella in peanut butter, E. coli 0157H7 in spinach and other produce, and clostridium botulinum in canned foods. Consequently, food manufacturers are evaluating their food safety strategies and looking for new tools to ensure the safety and quality of their products. One place to find these "new and improved" tools was the recent IFT Food Expo in Chicago. Many suppliers of analytical instruments and services demonstrated the latest aids to enhance food safety, product quality, and the product development process. Here’s a sampling of some of the advancements.
ABC Research (www.abcr.com) showcased its Vendor Specification Program, which is designed to help processors, retailers, restaurant operators, and wholesalers maintain quality standards throughout their supply chain. ABC acts as an independent, third-party laboratory, combining its analytical services, sensory evaluation, and problem-solving capabilities to present a true view of a vendor’s product quality statistics. Thus, companies can be assured of receiving products within specifications.
Compusense Sensory Services (www.compusense.com) showcased its new Compusense at-hand web-based consumer and sensory data collection program, which delivers state-of-the-art consumer and sensory research to any computer with a web browser, taking research to new destinations around the world. The software includes FCM, Feedback Calibration Method, an effective tool for training and optimizing sensory descriptive analysis panels. The at-hand software can be utilized for consumer and market research, descriptive profiling, product matching, and differentiation. It increases research productivity by providing higher-quality answers in less time than conventional methods.
Denver Instrument (www.denverinstrumentusa.com) displayed its preprogrammed titrators, designed to perform common food applications, such as titratable acidity, vitamin C, salt, and SO2 analyses. Instruments achieve results in about 3 minutes, with reproducibility of ±0.2%.
ESHA Research (www.esha.com) demonstrated its Genesis R&D SQL product formulation and labeling software. It allows users to design and print custom labels in a variety of sizes and types, including United States, Canada, Canadian bilingual, Spanish bilingual, shortened, simplified, dual declaration, and aggregate with a variety of formatting options for each type. Labels are camera-ready and can be printed or exported in a variety of formats: bmp, pdf, gif, tiff, etc.
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Kansas State University (www.mab.ksu.edu) offers a master’s degree in agribusiness. The award-winning, industry-centered, distance-education program focuses on business and economics and has students and alumni from 35 states and more than 20 countries.
SGS (www.foodsafety.sgs.com) showcased its global testing, inspection, and certification services. With a network of 33 food labs and 1,000+ offices in more than 140 countries, the company can audit and certify such standards as ISO 22000, HACCP, GMP, ISO 9001:2000, and ISO 14001:2004, and can customize an audit to meet a specific need. It also can help reduce risk, improve efficiency, and ensure compliance to contractual and regulatory requirements.
Nasco Whirl-Pak (www.whirl-pak.com) displayed its sterile polyethylene lab sample bags for quality assurance testing and microbiological applications. Bags can hold liquids or solids and have leak-proof closing tabs. Each box of bags features sterility documentation with spore strip testing and lot number traceability.
NP Analytical Laboratories (www.npal.com) showcased its comprehensive chemistry and microbiology testing services. It offers nutrition label testing, including trans fat, dietary fiber, and sugar alcohols. Product and ingredients testing services provide sugar profiles, gelatinized starch, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, fat quality and stability, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, heavy metals, preservatives, and pesticide residues.
Silliker (www.silliker.com) featured its total systems approach to food safety. This includes systematic management of food safety programs, risk assessment, planning and implementation, monitoring and verification, employee education programs, and crisis control. With 40 locations in 12 countries, Silliker is the leading international network of ISO 17025-accredited laboratories.
C.W. Brabender (www.cwbrabender.com) displayed a variety of testing devices. The Farinograph-E evaluates flour and dough products but also can be used for many unconventional applications. The Viscograph measures the viscosity of starch and products containing starch. For applications where sample size is an issue, the Micro Visco-Amylo-Graph can evaluate small sample amounts. Both the Viscograph-E and the Micro Visco-Amylo-Graph feature a self-optimizing temperature control unit.
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National Food Laboratory (www.thenfl.com) announced the launch of its Innovation Group, a 30-member in-house organization devoted to assisting companies in creating, developing, and commercializing new food and beverage products. These 30 experts in new product strategy, ideation, market intelligence, consumer design, and execution strategies help companies translate culinary concepts into successful commercial products. Recent examples of NFL-assisted projects include Bumble Bee Foods Prime Fillet Chicken Breast entrees, Rice-a-Roni Express, La Yoghi probiotic smoothie, and Sunny Delight Fruit Simple 100% Fruit Smoothie. At its booth, National Food Laboratory showcased its product innovation and commercialization efforts. Under the health and wellness umbrella, NFL developed Moroccan Spiced Almonds and a Moroccan Mint Mobili-Tea beverage, which was fortified with vitamin D to support bone health. Green tea and vitamin C added antioxidant benefits while organic agave syrup and honey provided a clean and natural sweetness with a low glycemic response.
Nerac (www.nerac.com) showcased its research and advisory services for innovative products and technologies. Its analysts provide custom assessments of product and technology development opportunities, competitor intelligence, intellectual property strategies, and compliance requirements. The company serves as a catalyst for new thinking and inspires teams to creatively approach business problems and identify strategic growth opportunities.
Reichert Analytical Instruments (www.reichertai.com) exhibited its r2mini hand-held digital refractometer. Instrument provides multiple reading scales (i.e., refractive index and % Brix) with accuracy of 0.0002 RI and 0.2% Brix. Unit weighs only 100 g. Two AAA batteries provide more than 10,000 readings. Designed for portability and multiple environments, the instrument features durable housing and an IP65 dustproof/water resistant rating.
Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (www.ssi.shimadzu.com) demonstrated its GCMS-QP2010 Plus, which is equipped with three technologies—AART, FASST, and COAST—to identify complex food and flavor samples. AART (Automatic Adjustment of Retention Time) automatically identifies and quantifies all compounds after a column change without compromise in analysis parameters, ensuring precision and accuracy of target compounds. FASST (Fast Automated Scan/SIM Technique) enables the instrument to acquire both Scan and SIM data on one peak. COAST (Creation of Automatic Scan/SIM Table) allows easy setup of SIM parameters using the SIM table automatic creation function, enabling appropriate parameters to be set automatically when using FASST. In addition, Shimadzu’s recently released Flavors and Fragrances Natural and Synthetic Compounds (FFNSC-MS) library contains approximately 1,200 mass spectra of various natural and synthetic flavor and fragrance compounds. During the library search, both library spectra and LRI data are compared with the unknown compounds.
Advanced Instruments (www.aicompanies.com) showcased its Fluorophos test system—a rapid, extremely sensitive fluorimetric method that delivers accuracy over a range of ALP levels, including low values, for milk from cows (whole, semi-skimmed, skimmed, and flavored) as well as from sheep, water buffalo, and goats. Benefits include higher precision, reproducibility, and a ten-fold improvement in test sensitivity. Recently, the EU adopted the Fluorimetric Method (ISO Standard 11816-1) as the new standard in assessing the correct pasteurization of milk. The system has also been unanimously approved as a full international standard method by The International Dairy Federation (IDF 155), the International Standards Organization (ISO 11816), and the CEN European Standards Organisation.
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Alpha M.O.S. (www.alpha-mos.com) demonstrated the new functionalities of its Fox electronic nose. Instrument coupled with AlphaSoft V11 Enose software delivers rapid results for R&D, quality control, or process monitoring. Based on sensor technology, the analyzer measures volatile compounds emanating from all types of samples (solid, liquid, gas) and provides a global fingerprint. In order to optimize this first step of analysis consisting of generating volatile compounds (headspace), the AlphaSoft V11 monitors a wide range of sampling methods: SPME, SPDE, and ITEX. With the instrument, users can perform product comparisons such as defect screening, batch-to-batch variation detection, process monitoring, product development based on flavor/odor, competition benchmarking, new raw materials testing, quality control of products, and identification of samples.
Ametek T&CI-Americas (www.ametektcia.com) showcased its testing capabilities for commercial bakeries. This includes the�TAPlus texture analyzer with a bakery accessories kit that allows testing of dough firmness, dough stickiness, bending/breaking of cookies and crackers, crisp testing, and the firmness of baked goods. The test results can be used for quality assurance verification on production lines as well as for research into the effect of new recipes and baking processes on product quality. The TAPlus also can be adapted to test packaging. The analyzer’s test fixtures and load cells can be configured to evaluate the opening force, puncture strength, crush strength, or tear resistance of food packaging.
IQ Scientific Instruments (www.phmeters.com) displayed its IQ170 instrument—a dual-technology pH meter (non-glass ISFET probes or glass electrodes with standard BNC connector) with multi-parameter capabilities. Rugged meter is NEMA4x (IP 67) rated, showcases an extra large LCD display with LED backlight, and has the ability to measure accurately pH, mV, temperature, ORP, conductivity, TDS, and salinity. Features include automatic temperature compensation, automatic pH buffer recognition, automatic conductivity cell constant recognition with auto ranging, and up to three-point pH calibration (five-point conductivity).
Fluid Imaging Technologies (www.fluidimaging.com) announced that Welch’s has purchased a FlowCAM instrument for R&D and QC applications. The unit integrates microscopy and flow cytometry to analyze, image, and count particles in a fluid stream. It produces a clear digital image of each particle and presents data in an easy-to-read image-based spreadsheet. The instrument also uses an interactive scattergram, which allows the user to highlight a particular area of interest on a plotted graph and then display all particle size images associated with that area.
Brookfield Engineering Laboratories (www.brookfieldengineering.com) announced the introduction of TexturePro Lite software for the Brookfield LFRA texture analyzer. The software simplifies repetitive sample testing and provides immediate comparison profiles. Many texture parameters are available for automatic calculation. User-defined calculations may be added to provide test flexibility. Instrument control, data analysis, and graphics are embedded in the program. Special chart analysis features enable the use of markers to analyze a segment of the data and calculate area, mean, or gradient (modulus).
by Bob Swientek is Editor-in-Chief, Food Technology ([email protected]).