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Drivers in an evolving food testing marketplace

By Joe Whitworth+

05-May-2014
Last updated on 05-May-2014 at 10:35 GMT

Thermo Fisher Scientific speaks to FQN at Analytica 2014
Thermo Fisher Scientific speaks to FQN at Analytica 2014

Faster analysis and more accurate results are driving the food testing industry in an evolving marketplace, according to Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The firm said labs are looking to perform day-to-day tasks more efficiently, such as managing data and samples.

Klaus Mittendorf, director, global strategic business development, chromatography and mass spectrometry, used ham production as an example, saying that the whole quality and food safety needs of a lab could fit within the instruments and technologies it offers.

“If we are just talking about the regulation you need to understand what is mandatory to test ,” he told FoodQualityNews.com.

“In terms of food regulations it will cover food safety, microbiological quality, hygiene quality, so this is something where our portfolio for the microbiological department comes into the game.

“We are offering the whole product range of plates, agar, specific tests for microbiological where we look for what you can use in quality control.

“From the chemical side, you need to understand if you go in the production area you won’t see big mass spectrometers, this is what you would see at contract testing labs or official control labs, they are using mass spectrometry, chromatography, ICP-MS to go for these contaminants and residues.”   

Time and technology

The use of which technology and the balance between speed and accuracy depends on the foodstuff, said Mittendorf.

“When we are talking about nuts it makes sense for a producer, supplier of nuts to work with liquid chromatography to test on aflatoxins because this is strictly regulated. For them it could be an advantage, it depends on the size of the company, to have their own lab because it is a time advantage," he said.

“If a container ship comes to Amsterdam or to Hamburg you are talking about 400,000 tonnes of nuts in one ship and the cost to park the boat in the harbour we are talking about thousands of dollars. So for them it is important to have these analyses as fast as possible, it is not a matter of the cost of the analysis it is a matter of speed.

“So for them it is mandatory to have a lab that runs the analysis as fast as possible, so how can we help them? If we provide the right technologies to them and the right applications that fit to their needs, so this is where we can help them.”

Range of options

Mittendorf said different technologies are used depending on production or laboratory needs, during Analytica 2014 in Munich.

Ion Chromotography is important in the quality control, especially if it is used in production.       

ICP-MS is used for testing such as for heavy metals in ham to watch for cross contamination or healthy metals such as sodium or calcium.

NMR is used for food fraud to identify where the food is coming from.

Commenting on the firm’s acquisition of Life Technologies, Mittendorf said it made sense to bring knowledge together, to develop technologies but he was unsure when it would happen in terms of products on the market.

“I don’t have any clear visions on which way it will go but I am pretty sure in the next few years we will see interesting developments in industry and Thermo Fisher that shows how the industry, how the science and Thermo Fisher are combining for different technologies.”

Products launched at the show included a rheometer, the HAAKE Viscotester iQ, to optimize the correct sample-testing procedure and the E1-ClipTip electronic pipette, to transfer multiple samples between different labware formats using one pipette.

The SampleSeal instrument, which prepares samples for long-term storage by creating sealed arrays that can be analyzed or used individually; and the Lab Execution System (LES), which allows customers in QA/QC and analytical labs to control their methods and SOPs was also unveiled at the trade show. 

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