Mérieux NutriSciences has acquired Food Technology Consulting International, a Canadian Food Safety consulting, training, and auditing solutions provider. Mérieux NutriSciences offers analytical and product development solutions to prevent health risks related to the food, beverage, and nutraceutical industry. The company operates more than 100 labs and has a presence in 27 countries.
Food Technology Consulting and its team of consultants, trainers and auditors have been helping companies in the development, implementation, and maintenance of effective food safety programming for more than 20 years.
“We are enthusiastic about having the talented team at Food Technology Consulting join us and welcome them to our network,” said Sébastien Moulard, President of Mérieux NutriSciences, North America. “This acquisition supports our position as a major player in the consulting market and strengthens our presence in Canada.”
Global Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) company Kiwa has acquired St. Louis-based ASI. ASI has provided farm-to-fork food safety solutions since the 1940s. The company offers a full suite of safety and quality services to the food and beverage, dietary supplements and cannabis industries. The merger will strengthen Kiwa’s U.S. footprint in providing Food, Feed & Farm certifications.
“Kiwa and ASI share similar customer-first business values and follow the same business model when it comes to testing, inspection and certification. By joining the Kiwa family, we’re combining their wide portfolio of accreditations and services (BRC, IFS, FSSC, PrimusGFS, GLOBALG.A.P., Rainforest Alliance, MSC/ASC, Organic/USDA and many others), global business network and expertise with our client network in farm-to-fork food safety to assist our growing client base in North America even better,” said Charray Williams, CEO of ASI.
On January 1, 2023, 29-year-old Tyler Williams, CTO of ASI, will take the reigns as CEO of ASI. He is the youngest CEO in the history of the company. He will succeed current CEO Charray Williams and lead the expansion of Kiwa and ASI in the Food, Feed & Farm sector in North America. Richard Stolk, Kiwa’s global Director for the Food, Feed & Farm sector will serve as President of the Board of ASI and will be directly involved in the further growth of ASI.
“Kiwa already has a strong footprint in the global Food, Feed & Farm sector. With ASI, we significantly expand our reach, expertise and footprint, particularly in the U.S. but certainly with a global perspective. Now that we have welcomed ASI to the Kiwa family, we can better provide our customers with a one-stop shop for food- and feed-related certification services on all continents,” said Stolk.
New Jersey-based Lakeside Refrigerated Services is recalling about 120,872 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103. The issue was uncovered during routine FSIS testing of imported products.
The recall affects ground beef products that were produced between February 1, 2022 and April 8, 2022, and have the establishment number EST. 46841” inside the USDA mark of inspection (FSIS has provided a full list of products and product codes as well as product labels). The products were distributed to retail locations nationwide.
Thus far there are no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions related to products affected by this recall. “Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) such as O103 because it is harder to identify than STEC O157:H7. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism,” FSIS stated in an announcement. The agency has advised that consumers throw out or return the recalled products to the place of purchase.
CFSAN and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are conducting research to better understand the factors, including seasonal effects, that could be contributing to E. Coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to bagged romaine lettuce. FDA and USDA scientists presented findings in the BMC Environmental Microbiome, which revealed that E. Coli O157:H7 survived “significantly better in cold-stored packaged romaine harvested in the fall than on the same varieties harvested in late spring.” In addition, the researchers showed that the microbiome present on bagged lettuce changes based on the season, level of deterioration of the lettuce and whether survival of the pathogen on the lettuce was high or low. They also found that the pathogen survived better in lettuce that was harvested in the fall versus lettuce harvested in the spring during cold storage. “This is a significant step toward closing the knowledge gaps identified in the FDA’s Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan and helping the agency and its partners to reduce foodborne illness linked to the consumption of leafy greens,” CFSAN stated in an agency update.
The study, “Seasonality, shelf life and storage atmosphere are main drivers of the microbiome and E. coli O157:H7 colonization of post-harvest lettuce cultivated in a major production area in California”, has been published on the Environmental Microbiome’s website.
Today the FDA launched a new online tool to help farmers understand the requirements of the proposed rule, “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption Relating to Agricultural Water”. If finalized, the rule would replace the microbial criteria and testing requirements for pre-harvest agricultural water for covered produce other than sprouts.
Under the proposed rule, farms would be required to conduct yearly systems-based agricultural water assessments to assess and guide measures that would reduce risks related to pre-harvest agricultural water. According to the FDA, the assessment would consist of evaluating the water system, agricultural water use practices, crop characteristics, environmental conditions, potential impacts on source water by activities conducted on adjacent and nearby land.
The Agricultural Water Assessment Builder v. 1.0 is an optional tool that asks users to answer questions and complete information specific to their farms. According to the FDA, this information is not shared with the agency, nor is it saved; users can save or print the information to their own computers.
COVID-19 continues to pose challenges for every industry, influencing how they will need to adapt to the future. The food manufacturing industry specifically is continuing to see problems with plants shutting down due to outbreaks, labor shortages and domino-effect supply chain issues, forcing them to adjust in order to continue meeting the demands of customers and supplying safe food to the public.
With these adjustments in mind, changes in testing and detection in labs have arisen, influencing four main trends within food manufacturing labs expected throughout 2022.
1. Testing levels continue to increase. In 2021, some customers intentionally planned to cut testing and production in plants to balance out the loss of employees due to the pandemic-induced labor shortages within manufacturing roles.
However, following the trends of rising employment in manufacturing, 2022 should see an increase in testing, raising the baseline of production levels in the plants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing jobs saw an increase of more than 113,000 employees in Q4 of 2021. Although still below employment levels of February 2020, the continued increase is positive news for the food manufacturing industry.
2. Food testing labs turn to automation technology. Even as labs begin to see their numbers in employees rise, the demand for automation technology during 2022 will continue to climb given its proven ability to increase productivity in the lab and meet the demands of customers. With automation technology, lab technicians can multi-task thanks to the ability to step away from tests, increasing the amount of testing that can be done despite the lack of people in labs.
Additionally, utilizing ready-to-use products has cut down on the time it takes to prepare for testing. Rather than spending hours preparing Petri dishes and using an autoclave, ready-to-use Petri films or Petri dishes create easy to follow protocols with significantly less steps for a lab technician to complete.
3. Third-party labs gain popularity. With food manufacturing, tests will either be conducted on-site or at a third-party lab. Taking labor shortages into account, many manufacturers still do not have the staff numbers to maintain a dedicated on-site testing facility. As a result, manufacturers will turn to third-party labs to help increase testing volumes and productivity.
Not only have third-party labs aided manufacturers with testing, but the labs also often have the capabilities to run confirmation tests on products, tests that may not have been possible if conducted on-site. And as third-party labs have seen numerous consolidations in recent years, their capability to move products around for necessary testing is much more simplified and achievable than if testing was conducted on-site.
4. Shifting to locally sourced products. With supply chain issues continuing into 2022, the food manufacturing industry could source more products from local farmers and other local product suppliers in order to better keep up with demand.
Right now, it is much harder to receive and send products across the globe with countries and states enforcing COVID-19 restrictions and dealing with their own labor issues. Not only are labs looking to rely on locally sourced products to assist in getting products to their final destination, but consumers are also increasing their demand for locally sourced products. Specifically, consumers are looking for the reliability of food on the shelves, shorter time spent between farmer and grocery stores, as well as simply fewer people touching product throughout the chain.
Challenges in food testing labs that arose in the past couple of years are still prevalent in 2022, but from adversity comes innovation and change. With more attention on automation technology, more food manufacturing employees returning to work, and adjustments to ongoing supply chain issues, 2022 is looking more hopeful in working to return to the level of productivity food manufacturers were meeting prior to the pandemic.
FDA has released a report on the multiagency investigation of a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak associated with packaged salad greens grown in a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operation. The outbreak, which occurred between June and August 2021, resulted in 31 reported illnesses and four hospitalizations. It is also believed to be the first of its kind associated with leafy greens grown in a CEA facility.
No “conclusive” root cause was found, but the FDA did pinpoint the outbreak strain of Salmonella to a stormwater retention basin located next to the CEA farm. The investigation did not, however, find that this was the definitive source of contamination of the leafy greens. The agency also identified certain conditions, factors and practices that could lead to contamination, including the pond water used, growth media storage methods, water management practices and overall sanitation practices.
In the report, the FDA listed eight requirements and recommendations that apply to hydroponic facilities using CEA, including implementing effective sanitation procedures and sampling plans, conducting pre- and post-harvest sampling and testing of food, water and the physical environment, implementing procedures that are effective in rapidly cooling and cold-holding harvested leafy greens after harvest, and ensuring all growing pond water is safe and of sanitary quality.
Beer is one of the world’s oldest beverages, with evidence suggesting production as far back as the Bronze age. While beer is no longer used as renumeration for work as it was in the Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent, it is nevertheless a common pleasure for many people. Craft brewing is a relatively new phenomenon, and quite different from the brewing processes of antiquity. In the United States, immigrants from Germany and Czechia began to experiment with new recipes for craft beer in the 1960s. These recipes, often based on the Bavarian 16th century Reinheitsgebot, or purity laws, ensured that only the purest, highest quality ingredients went in to make beer: Water, barley, hops and yeast.
Since then, there has been a rapid growth in the number of microbreweries that experiment with “new-world” hops and grains to create huge ranges of flavorful beers that go far beyond traditional recipes. This variety in brewing ingredients and approaches has, in part, supported the explosion of a mass market for craft beer. In 2020, the global market value of craft beer was estimated at nearly $165 billion, and is expected to grow to nearly $554 Billion by 2027, with the largest growing markets in countries like China, Japan and the United States. There has also been a shift in which types of beers are consumed, with more premium or specialized craft beers increasing in market share with respect to low-cost mass-production beers.
In such a crowded and dynamic market, beer producers are faced with competitive challenges like never before. Ensuring a consistently high-quality product with a distinctive flavor profile that can be enjoyed time and time again is critical for market success. One of the key challenges standing in the way of achieving this is turbidity, or “haze”, in the end product. Such haze can give an unsightly first impression to consumers, compromise flavor, and negatively impacts shelf stability. In this article we discuss how new, advanced turbidity testing technologies are enabling brewers to quickly and efficiently eliminate haze from their beers, supporting breweries in their goals of delivering great consumer experiences again and again.
Quality over Quantity
With the growing “premiumization” of beers, ever-greater attention and importance is being placed on interesting and consistent flavor profiles. Often, this includes beers made from ingredients far outside the relatively strict Reinheitsgebot recipe, including additions such as coffee, fruit and spices. The emphasis on more complex flavor profiles is pushing beer tasting to be taken as seriously as wine tasting, with perfectly balanced beers often being designed to match certain foods.
However, the addition of these newer ingredients can introduce challenges into the brewing process, especially as they can be sources of turbidity-causing impurities that may affect the quality, flavor and shelf stability of the final product. This is particularly challenging when beer brewing is scaled up to larger manufacturing quotas, where careful control of variables like ingredient choices, recipes and manufacturing methods are critical for ensuring the consistency and quality of the beer from batch to batch.
To meet these needs, modern breweries are increasingly using new and advanced technologies throughout the brewing process to maintain high quality products. Technologies like water purification systems, titrators and portable instruments such as hand-held pH meters and spectrophotometers are all being utilized to improve and refine the manufacturing process. A major focus of this technological drive is in turbidity detection and removal.
What Is Haze, and Where Does It Come From?
Haze is a broad term referring to evenly distributed turbidity—suspended, insoluble material which can appear in the final product. Haze can be divided into several types, most commonly: Chill haze, a temporary haze that disappears when a chilled beer warms to room temperature; and permanent haze, which is present at all temperatures. Haze can also be divided into biological haze (caused by microbiological growth in the beer) and non-biological haze (caused by a wide variety of non-living material, such as peptides, polyphenols and starches).
Since turbidity can be the result of unwanted microbes, wild yeast or protein particles, these deposits, although not unsafe to consume, can significantly alter the flavor profile of the beer, adding unpleasant acidity, sourness, or even “off” flavors. Bacteria are one of the major sources of turbidity in beers, particularly lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB), such as Lactobacillus. While small amounts of lactic acid can add pleasant, desirable sour flavors in sour beers, the over-presence of these bacteria can be a major cause of contamination, so their levels must be closely monitored in the brewing process. Other bacteria like Pectinatus species can also “infect” beers, causing turbidity as well as “off” aromas and flavors due to the creation of hydrogen sulfide and fatty acids.
Importantly, turbidity-causing compounds can collect in the product from all stages of the brewing process:
This starts with the source of water, and how it is filtered and treated. For example, a high presence of calcium in brewing water can cause precipitation of calcium oxalate.
Mashing, the first stage of the brewing process, produces a malt extract from mixing grains and water. The malt extract is a liquid containing sugar extracted during mashes and has high viscosity and high protein content. At this stage fungi (like Penecillium), wild yeasts (Candida) and bacteria can all enter the mix to cause turbidity later on.
From there, the process of lautering separates the wort from the grain. The wort is then boiled with hops, clarified, then fermented with yeast. The fermentation process is a common step when turbidity-causing bacteria like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus can contaminate the mixture.
The fermented beer product is then stored for anything from three weeks to three months in a storage tank where a second fermentation takes place. Then it is filtered and packaged into barrels, bottles, or cans; all of which are also potential sources of turbidity-causing bacteria like Pectinatus.
The filtration and pasteurization processes are key for removing sources of turbidity. However, these processes do not necessarily remove all sources of turbidity, especially if aspects of the brewing process are altered by external factors (e.g., subtle shifts in the mashing temperatures) and cause a buildup of contaminants that is too great to filter out. Therefore, effectively monitoring and minimizing turbidity throughout the brewing process is critical, allowing brewers to make timely corrective adjustments, reducing a buildup of contaminants in the final product.
Advanced Methods for Turbidity Testing
To support effective haze removal and ensure beer consistency, turbidity measurements must be taken throughout the entire brewing process. Measurements should therefore be quick and efficient, and able to measure large quantities of beer in a short space of time, especially in high-production breweries. As such, advanced on-site turbidity testing technologies that are efficient and easy to use are ideal, and can rapidly streamline quality control in the brewing process. For example, with turbidity meters, breweries can swiftly check that their fining or filtration process is yielding a desired end product, and if an issue arises during the clarification process, an onsite turbidity measurement can pick this up right away for speedy corrective action. Such speedy rectification minimizes the chances of ruined batches and resultant profit loss to the brewery.
Modern turbidity meters work by using an infrared LED light source to measure light scattering in a solution. These handy devices allow brewers to perform rapid testing of beer with simple grab samples, meaning samples can be analyzed without having to disturb the brewing process. The LED light sources used in more advanced meters also have several benefits. For example, the LED does not require a warm-up period like older tungsten lamps, meaning it is ready to use at all times. Secondly, infrared LED light sources prevent color interference, which is especially useful for testing darker beers. Finally, the LED will last the life of the meter and give stable signals, meaning that calibration does not drift. Turbidity meters can also test for chill haze, allowing brewers to check for problems that can cause the beer to turn cloudy during prolonged chilling.
Quality control of the brewing process is crucial for maintaining the quality and consistency of beer products that keep customers returning time and time again to their beers of choice. In a hyper-competitive market, brewers must use all the advantages they can to stay ahead of the game. Hazy beers can be particularly off-putting to customers if they are expecting bright, clear products, and critical qualities like taste and aroma can be very unpleasant if contamination isn’t carefully controlled. Moreover, unwanted turbidity in beers can negatively impact shelf stability, with resultant impact on profitability and brand reputation.
Owing to the complexity of beer making, the sources of turbidity are multiple, meaning that careful testing of turbidity is critical. In helping to overcome these challenges, advanced turbidity meters are enabling brewers to perform efficient and simple measurements on-site throughout the brewing process. This is helping to drive more timely tweaks to the brewing, filtration and storage steps to ensure consistent, high-quality beers with carefully crafted flavor profiles reach the market.
On February 4, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives made public a report concerning the existence of heavy metals in baby food. The heavy metals of concern were cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury, which pose a tremendous hazard to developing children’s health. After reviewing internal documents and test results from seven of the largest baby food manufacturers in the country, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy found each company’s products to contain dangerously high concentrations of heavy metals.
Four of the companies, Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain and Gerber, responded to the request. They provided internal testing policies, test results for ingredients and finished products, and documentation about how they handled finished products and ingredients that exceeded their internal testing limits.
On the other hand, Walmart, Campbell and Sprout Organic Foods refused to partake in the investigation. The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy members are very concerned that the lack of cooperation of these manufacturers could obstruct the presence of even higher levels of heavy metals in their products than their competitors.
Practical Measures Baby Food Companies Can Take to Ensure Products Are Safe for Children
Baby food manufacturers may not intentionally add heavy metals to their products, but their lack of testing and a lack of regulation in this sense is a cause for great concern. The main ingredients in baby foods such as rice, sweet potatoes, wheat, and carrots absorb heavy metals from the soil and water and metal-containing pesticides and industrial pollution.
Therefore, the companies that manufacture baby food should tackle the issue of heavy metals at the root of the problem and abide by strict safety measures and protocols to ensure low concentrations of heavy metals, particularly arsenic. Some of the steps that they could take to minimize this issue are the following:
Sourcing cereals, fruits, and vegetables from fields with lower arsenic concentrations in the earth
Growing crops with natural soil additives that reduce heavy metal uptake
Using strains of food that are less prone to absorb heavy metals
Altering irrigation practices
Preparing the food with excess water that is afterward poured off
Blending it with lower arsenic grains in multi-grain products
Subsequently, when the end product is finished, manufacturers should collect a sample from the finite product and test it for cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury. Fortunately, nowadays, testing baby food for heavy metals is easier than ever and cost-efficient. Every food facility that must comply with FSMA must implement HACCP and establish preventive controls. HACCP, which is recognized internationally, ensures the health and safety of consumers by avoiding hazardous toxins in food. When it comes to baby food companies, they should focus on chemistry testing, as it addresses chemical and physical hazards, including heavy metals.
Alternatively, baby food companies can test their products by using the guidelines of the Environmental Defense Fund. The non-profit advocacy group advises manufacturers to prohibit arsenic, cadmium explicitly, and lead in any packaging or food handling equipment and strictly avoid brass and bronze unless they are confident that no heavy metal was added. Manufacturers of baby food should test the products per se, the ingredients, and the packaging for arsenic, cadmium, and lead. More specifically, companies should:
Consistently test baby food and their main ingredients that may be contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, or lead by using the method approved by the FDA and examine potential sources of heavy metals where measurable concentrations are found
Periodically test the packaging that comes in contact with food anywhere along the supply chain for arsenic, cadmium, or lead through a CPSC-accepted, third-party certified lab that evaluates baby food for heavy metals
In December of 2019, the cost of heavy metal testing was between $50 and $100 per sample. Nevertheless, companies that produce baby food should invest in heavy metal testing, no matter how small or large. This is the only way of making sure they put exclusively clean and safe products of high quality on the market.
To make sure baby food companies keep following the guidelines concerning heavy metals and do not fail to test their products for these neurotoxins regularly, the authority of the FDA should be expanded. Accordingly, the agency should be able to request a recall of adulterated or misbranded baby food whose concentration of heavy metals exceeds the safe limit. Moreover, the FDA should establish health-protective standards for each heavy metal and implement a testing program for neurotoxins in foods eaten by infants and toddlers that could be similar to the agenda of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for children’s toys.
The Ethical Measures Baby Food Companies Should Take to Avoid Selling Tainted Products
Baby food companies should exercise their social and moral capacity at all times. Nonetheless, while few people achieve the extent of influence necessary to change society itself, the food industry can drastically change societies. Moreover, it can also act in morally beneficial or detrimental ways, which inevitably affects people, the environment, and, ultimately, the planet itself.
To prevent your baby food company from developing unethical conducts, such as allowing dangerous concentrations of heavy metals in the products that end up on the market, there are a series of measures you and the other people who are in charge of the business can take, the paramount being the following:
Hiring accredited, trustworthy and competent people is perhaps the most important, as well as the first, step you can take to ensure no foul play will occur, as they will be unlikely to cover up essential information from you and the other higher-ups
Sourcing your ingredients from ethical suppliers, that are, preferably, local farmers, as they usually employ transparent business practices
Make sure that your facilities are maintained clean 24/7 by hiring the right people to take care of this not-so-easy job as if you neglect the condition of your facilities. Other contaminants may end up in the food you sell
Systematically testing your baby food for cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury to ensure the products you allow to go on the market do not contain dangerous levels of heavy metals
Partnering with experienced laboratories to have your baby food regularly tested for heavy metals, which may help you save money if it is going to be a win-win situation
Having clear labels, even if you add ingredients that are not so healthy in your products, which will result in the consumers you target trusting you as a company
Voluntarily recalling a line of baby food products as soon as you receive the positive test results for one or multiple heavy metals, which will spare you some liability if you willingly take your food off the market
The Changes the Baby Food Safety Act May Bring About if the Bill Becomes Effective
On March 26, 2021, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi introduced the Baby Food Safety Act, a bill to set maximum limits for each heavy metal in infant and toddler food, which is defined as food manufactured for children younger than 36 months. The initiative was taken because the concentration of neurotoxins in baby food is poorly regulated in our country. There is only a maximum limit for arsenic set by the FDA, which is considered dangerous by multiple other health agencies. It applies solely to infant rice cereals. The other three harmful heavy metals are not regulated at all.
If the Baby Food Act of 2021 becomes effective, companies that manufacture, process, pack or hold baby food need to ensure that their food complies with the limits on heavy metals set by the bill. Furthermore, baby food companies would also have to provide public information, such as test results for neurotoxins in their infant and toddler.
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