Michael Allen, director of marketing and product development for Ocean Optics, told FoodProductionDaily.com analytical technology used in food quality, safety, and other industries has progressed in recent decades.
However, he added, there still are opportunities to improve existing technologies, come up with different applications and methods, and develop future ways to boost the field.
“There is a lot of room for improvement in food safety testing, and quality testing,” Allen said.
Ocean Optics is among the companies working on analytical technology that improves upon the equipment lab personnel rely on today. Common goals of such manufacturers are faster results, increased accuracy, better integrated communication, requirement of reduced sample sizes, simplified sample prep, and more.
Among Ocean Optics’ recent products are the IDRaman mini-handheld Raman spectrometer. The item, which weighs 11 ounces (or 330g) can detect counterfeit products, identify materials, and authenticate samples.
The IDRaman, while small in size, can be used to sample wide areas, including solid samples that are heterogeneous and irregularly shaped (such as cookies and other bakery items). The raster orbital scanning (ROS) mode permits low power usage and quick results (reportedly around nine seconds).
In addition to food testing, Ocean Optics is working on ways to harness technology to benefit food-related businesses, either directly or indirectly.
Lightweight miniature Ocean Optics spectrometers are being used on drones to check parameters in New Zealand grassland. The capability enables researchers to monitor the characteristics of barley and sugar-beet crops, leading to more effective crop management.
The company has revamped its Spectroscopy 101 curriculum— for high school and college laboratories, the program also covers key topics of use to beginning and non-technical food personnel. The curriculum shows how spectroscopy can identify food dyes, analyze spice extracts, perform absorbance measurements of chlorophyll extracted from spinach leaves, giving people a good baseline knowledge for using analytical equipment.
Allen spoke to FPD at Pittcon 2014, an annual conference and exposition that showcases analytical technology applicable to food safety, medical testing, and other arenas. The event is taking place in Chicago March 2-6.