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Analytical Methods and Procedures

Consumers, regulators and companies have higher demands for safe and high quality food. This is reflected in new regulations issued across the world; more stringent customer standards and product specifications; and industry standards.

Analytical tools and procedures are conducted to help show adherence to regulations and standards; and to monitor the integrity of food.

Analytical Methods

Analytical tools are used in the analysis of feed and food for monitoring contamination and disease to ensure food integrity.

There are two types of analytical methods: screening tests and confirmatory tests. Screening tests will give a strong indication that there is some form of contaminant present, whilst confirmatory tests gives indisputable proof that there is some from of contaminant present. Analytical methods may be qualitative or quantitative.

There is a wide range of laboratory methods used in food and feed analysis, including:

Spectrometry Chromatography
Microscopy Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
Cell Culture ELISA
Bioimaging Biosensors
Microfluidics Western Blotting
Microarrays Bioassays

Procedures

European legislation requires all food businesses to ensure they have placed safe food on the market. Appropriate due diligence is required for a food business to prove they have done everything reasonably possible to prevent food safety breaches. Due diligence defence is the primary way to prevent legal repercussions if there is a food safety incident in a food business.

There are three important Quality Management Systems (QMS) which are widely used to help meet regulations and customer demands; and contribute to due diligence efforts:

  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) are basic feed and food safety principles which aim to minimise biological, chemical and physical hazards from field through to distribution.

GAP practices include site selection, land use, wild life and habitat protection, water, fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMO), integrated crop management (ICM), animal feeding practices, worker hygiene, field and facility sanitation, cooling and transportation.

  • Good Manufacturing Practices

Good manufacturing practices (GMP) direct all persons working in direct contact with food; surfaces that food might contact; and food packaging materials, to conform to sanitation and hygiene practices to the extent necessary to protect against contamination of food from direct and indirect sources.

GMP are commonly referred to as the minimum hygiene requirements that must be met to assure their products are safe and of a high and consistent quality. They act as a prerequisite program for HACCP and are mostly specified in related legislation.

Examples include, personnel hygiene and training, cleaning and sanitation, maintenance and services, pest control, plant equipment, premises and structure, storage, distribution, transport and waste management.

  • Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)

HACCP is a preventative risk-management tool which enables feed or food manufacturers to identify critical control points (CCPS) for microbiological (e.g. bacteria), chemical (e.g. pesticides) and physical (e.g. glass) hazards.

Rather than traditional inspection and quality control procedures which concentrated on testing the end product to detect compliance or failure, HACCP proactively and systematically analyses for potential risks and identifies appropriate control and monitoring systems, particularly those deemed critical to the safety of the product.

European legislation lays down the minimum requirements regarding GMP and HACCP. However, it does not describe how these requirements should be implemented within the industry.

Industry and customer standards often provide the necessary procedural information for the sector (e.g. BRC). The procedures typically include standards for:

  • Site requirements and approval
  • Approved suppliers and raw material specifications +Premises and equipment
  • Good manufacturing practices
  • Effective cleaning and disinfection
  • Analytical control programmes
  • Pest control
  • Water and air control
  • Waste management
  • Staff training
  • Finished product specifications
  • Labelling, traceability and recall procedures
  • Internal audit schedules and inspections

Please note: This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other procedures relevant to different food businesses. Establishments should continue to review and revise their quality management system to ensure they remain effective.

Once a food business has identified the standards relevant for their business it is important they are incorporated into relevant documentation, i.e. written policies, procedures and standard operating procedures in a clear and unambiguous manner. All records related to food production should confirm all steps required by the written procedures have been undertaken and any deviations are recorded and investigated.

The records generated should be monitored by inspection personnel or supervisors. These procedures and records are audited and validated as effective by internal, customer or third party audits/certification bodies.

What we would like you to do

Please answer the following questions in the comments section below:

  • Have you heard of any of these analytical techniques or procedures before?
  • Do you think auditing is an important activity in the food chain?

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Food Supply Chains in a Time of Crisis

EIT Food