FQN digests 2016 and injects topics of 2017

Focus was on pesticide residues and beverage analysis - Thermo

©iStock/sauletas

To understand the food safety and quality landscape we sent a Q+A to several companies in industry to discuss highlights of 2016 and to predict what this year could bring.

Here is the third with Thermo Fisher Scientific. If you missed the second with Bob Galvin, VP Applied Markets at Bruker Daltonics or first with Ashley Sage, senior manager - applied markets development EMEAI at SCIEX, go here .

FQN: What was the highlight of 2016 for your company and why?

TFS: Our two main focuses in 2016 were pesticide residues and beverage analysis. 

Pesticide residues in food continue to be an area of global concern and we recognize this fact. Pesticide residue testing needs to ensure compliance with regards to maximum residues levels (MRLs) or tolerance levels of pesticides in various foods. Analytical laboratories are expected to detect, quantitate and identify hundreds of different pesticides with diverse physicochemical properties in hundreds of different sample types, which can present a significant challenge. 

To tackle this global concern, we have developed a number of workflows to ensure reliable and efficient pesticide residue testing while complying with regulatory requirements. From the initial sample preparation techniques of QuEChERS and solid phase extraction methods, to the analysis of hundreds of pesticides and their metabolites (both targeted and non-targeted) via GC-MS/MS or LC-MS/MS.

Another key focus area in 2016 was beverage analysis. The global beverage industry is growing each year with the introduction of new products such as vitamin-fortified water, energy drinks, anti-aging water and sports drinks. With this growth comes many more analytical challenges. These challenges are compounded by the evolving need to continually analyze frequently consumed products such as popular sodas, fruit juices, milk drinks, alcoholic beverages and bottled water.

The quality and safety of beverage composition must be carefully monitored to help track the incidence of contamination and adulteration, and to monitor product consistency. In addition, it’s crucial to ensure regulatory compliance is followed when using raw ingredients (such as water, additives and fruits).

Thermo Fisher Scientific works in collaboration with the world’s top 10 beverage manufacturers, helping to ensure their products are safe and of high quality. We have developed over one hundred novel applications designed to address the variety of challenges faced in the industry.

FQN: What are the focus areas for 2017?

TFS: Our key focus area for 2017 is the development of tools to help analyze and monitor food safety and authenticity. We are developing ways to improve the analysis of pesticides, veterinary drugs, environmental pollutants and food contact material. We will be introducing products in 2017 that will play a critical role in the determination and identification of these contaminants.   

FQN: Is food fraud/authenticity getting as much attention as food safety or is it still second?

TFS: Food safety is still the primary focus of the food and beverage industry, but authenticity has been gaining more visibility in recent years. Consumers are paying a premium price for products which they expect to be of high quality, authentic and unadulterated. Food fraudsters are continuing to find new and unique ways to bring adulterated foods to the market, but we are looking at ways to expand and develop our technologies so as to remain one step ahead when detecting incidences of food fraud.

FQN: How far along are we in terms of taking the lab to the sample, rather than the sample to the lab?

TFS: Things are certainly heading in this direction. As food and beverage manufacturers need to monitor the quality, safety and authenticity of incoming raw material as well as the finished product itself, tools like the handheld Thermo Scientific Raman Analyzer would be ideal for the determination of food fraud. 

FQN: Do you see past issues such as agar, helium supply shortages/costs or political issues such as those in Venezuela affecting this year? Are there other things to keep an eye on?

TFS: With the new administration in Washington D.C. we can expect to see some changes to government agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is something we are keeping a close eye on as it has obvious implications for both our own and our customers’ work.

FQN: Is FSMA (or other regulation) driving different demands from customers?

TFS: The FSMA and other food regulations are driving the demand for transparency from food and beverage manufacturers.  Customers are expecting manufacturers to produce authentic products, meet label requirements and claims, provide country of origin information and inform them if the product is kosher or halal.

More and more, consumers are opting for products that they can track from ‘farm to fork’, and are relying on information like this to make more educated decisions with regards to the food and drinks they purchase and consume.  

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