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Mycotoxin Sample Size
A Key Component in Accurate Testing
The mycotoxin test procedure is a three-step process that includes sampling, sample preparation, and analysis. Each of these steps contributes to the overall uncertainty of the test procedure since it is difficult to obtain an accurate estimation of the mycotoxin concentration in a bulk lot1. One way to help reduce the amount of uncertainty in the test procedure is to ensure that the sample being used is of adequate mass and from an adequate number of points throughout the lot. Since mycotoxins are distributed heterogeneously throughout a lot, using a reduced sample weight or too few samples represent two of the most frequent errors that result in an overall increase in result uncertainty2.
A representative sample can be created by collecting small incremental samples from several randomly chosen areas of the material lot. These smaller samples can then be combined to create the large single aggregate sample that is submitted for analysis. For commodities that have a large particle size, such as nuts/grains, a larger sample size of up to 10 pounds is recommended. Commodities that are more homogenous in nature with a smaller particle size, such as flour, can use a smaller total sample size for testing. Once the laboratory receives the representative sample for testing, the full sample amount sent is homogenized prior to testing. This ensures uniform distribution of mycotoxins throughout the sample portion.
There are several resources available that can help you in developing your sample plan:
NQAC Dublin offers several robust methods for Mycotoxin detection that can help you meet your food safety goals. Please reference the Technical Datasheets linked below for more information about each method:
- LI-00.027 – Tropane Alkaloids by LC-MS/MS – Chem
- LI-00.056 – Alternaria Toxins by LC-MS/MS – Chem
- LI-00.219 – Patulin by LC-MSMS – Chem
- LI-00.185 – Mycotoxins in Foodstuffs by LC-MS/MS – Chem
- Whitaker, Thomas. (2006). Sampling Foods for Mycotoxins. Food additives and contaminants. 23. 50-61. 10.1080/02652030500241587.
- Cheli, Federica & Campagnoli, Anna & Pinotti, Luciano & Eleonora, Fusi & Dell’Orto, Vittorio. (2010). Sampling feed for mycotoxins: Acquiring knowledge from food. Italian Journal of Animal Science. 8. 10.4081/ijas.2009.5.
Price Adjustment Coming in 2023
NQAC Dublin would like to sincerely thank you for your continued support and partnership in ensuring the delivery of safe food to consumers!
For many years now, our location was able to avoid raising prices to help our customers. However, we have all been affected by the challenging economic conditions this past year and with inflation reaching extreme levels we are no longer able to maintain this.
In order to sustain the resources needed to complete our testing services, quality, and delivery commitments, we will be raising our method portfolio prices by 6.5% starting in 2023 except for the methods listed below:
- NQA-54.0003 – Pesticide Residue Analysis by Electrospray LC-MS/MS
- NQA-54.0005 – Pesticide Residue Analysis by GC-MS/MS
- LI-00.848 – Trace Elements Analysis by ICP-MS
- LI-00.185 – Mycotoxins in Foodstuffs by LC-MS/MS
- DOP-759-1003-1 – Identification of unknown microorganisms
We greatly appreciate your business and understanding during these challenging times!
Method Implementation at NQAC Dublin
Threats to food safety and regulatory compliance are constantly changing, and the methods for detecting those threats must evolve with it. New method implementation is not a rapid process, but rather a carefully planned and managed project that requires multi-departmental collaboration to succeed.
Multiple sources drive new methods, creating an ever- evolving review of resource management and technical assessment. Major contributors can be internal, such as cost and turnaround time reduction, but external drivers should also be considered. These sources can include customer requests, emerging regulations, anticipated threats to food safety, or market crisis support.
The decision to implement a new method in the laboratory relies on many factors, such as:
- customer demand, expected sample volumes
- cost to run the method, labor, purchase of new equipment/supplies
- the need for validation and/or verification
- resources needed (i.e., project personnel, IT resources)New method implementation is not always a simple process. The least complex implementations take as little as one month, and the most complex methods can extend to a year or more. One of the first steps in the process is to research if there are already methods to choose from (there might be cases where multiple options are available) and evaluate each platform to determine fitness-for-purpose, ease of use, and cost of running the method.
Once the potential new method is chosen, our laboratory will evaluate its performance capabilities. The method must meet the performance criteria established via in-house validation or verification studies. This includes criteria such as: determining the levels of detection, demonstrating that a sample matrix can be pooled, sample preparation assessments for routine and challenging matrices, limit of quantification, accuracy profiles/method equivalency, estimated bias, as well as other criteria defined in the validation/verification guidelines (i.e., ISO 16140, AOAC). If a method does not meet the performance criteria, then the laboratory may not pursue implementation as it may not be fit-for-purpose.
In the case there are no methods available that can meet the needs, Nestlé laboratories will start a new method development to expand the capabilities of the analysis. There are cases in which new techniques or technologies may be required, and scientific original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vendors may be brought into partner on developing of a solution. Sourcing of the instrumentation, equipment, consumables, and reference materials are established to ensure that the method can be performed reliably. If new vendors are needed, these will go through evaluations that will determine they can meet Nestlé’s standards before they’re onboarded.
The core requirement of a new method implementation is the validation of the method performance. Demonstration that the results can meet the customer needs and at the same time hold up to scientific scrutiny are non-negotiables in the world of food safety and quality management. Additional work by the Quality Assurance team is performed to determine if the method and supplies meet ISO accreditation requirements for inclusion within the scope of the analytical portfolio.
Once the potential new method has been proven to deliver the needed results within the designed quality parameters, the next step for the laboratory business and support functions is to identify staff, equipment, laboratory space and time resources to satisfy the sample volume and turnaround time.
The last major consideration is the design, development and testing of the new method in the laboratory’s information management system (LIMS). Extensive programming and testing are required to create standards and reagents, the method itself and its associated result components, calculations, result formatting, report generation, invoicing, as well as communication with other software services (i.e., SAP). The more complex a new method is, the greater amount of time is required to ensure proper development and functionality of the LIMS system. Additional consideration is made for the staff training, safety/environmental considerations, sample storage, waste generation, and other impacts for the roll out of a successful method.
Once a new method is successfully implemented and live in the lab, a period of “hypercare” is performed to ensure all aspects of the method are functioning correctly. This may involve ensuring the method is performing as intended, equipment and consumables are functioning properly, LIMS systems are calculating results correctly and successfully sending out final reports, etc. The hypercare period usually lasts for about one to two months, and any issues encountered are swiftly resolved.
Even after the hypercare period ends, the method will be continually monitored as it is used through process controls or spikes, troubleshooting as issues occur, proficiency testing performance, as well as internal or external audits to ensure conformance to ISO 17025. In some cases, additional food matrices may need to be validated and verified by the laboratory (with vendor support, if needed) if those matrices fall out of scope of the method. The need for additional matrix validation may arise by customer demand and/or development of new food products.
New method implementation projects can be challenging processes for the laboratory, dependent on the complexity of the method, resource availability, and performance of the method. In our experience, each method implementation project is unique and has its specific set of challenges. But with these challenges, it provides the laboratory valuable experience on how to overcome these challenges. To successfully implement a new method, it requires effective collaboration between multiple departments within the laboratory, as well as support from vendors and technical experts.
NQAC Dublin is here support your business. Click here to access our current Analysis Portfolio. If you have any questions or need assistance with your analytical needs, please email our Customer Service team at email@example.com.
World Food Safety Day
Vicine and Convicine Testing in Fava Bean Derived Ingredients
Over the past few years, the popularity of plant-based foods has skyrocketed leading to an explosion of new product development, innovation, and brand launches in this category. Recent data commissioned by The Good Food Institute shows that retail sales of plant-based foods intended to replace animal-based foods have grown over 30% in a two-year period, reaching nearly $4.5 billion in sales as of 2019.1
With this growing interest in vegan and vegetarian foods, manufacturers are investigating plant-based proteins to use in product development. Fava beans (Vicia faba) have been increasingly used in the development of these alternative protein sources and have been suggested as an alternative to soybeans based on its potentially smaller environmental impact.2 Fava beans are adapted to a wide range of global agro-ecological zones which reduces greenhouse gas emissions that result from transport over long distances. They are also able to symbiotically fix nitrogen which reduces the reliance on nitrogen inputs into the soil and allows for improved soil fertility.3 From the product development aspect, fava beans provide color, taste and texture that is competitive with soy and other plant-based protein alternatives. This makes it an attractive option due to its bright color and neutral taste.2
Despite the positive aspects of using fava beans as an alternative protein, the potential presence of vicine and convicine has traditionally restricted its use. Vicine and convicine are alkaloid β-glycosides found in fava beans (Vicia faba) that are hydrolyzed to their aglycones (divicine and isouramil) in the colon. These two aglycones are toxic to individuals who suffer from hereditary loss of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. This toxicity develops into a potentially fatal form of anemia known as favism.
This risk can be mitigated through adequate processing and treatment, but it is also essential that raw material and finished products are monitored for the presence of these compounds. NQAC Dublin recently implemented a method that allows for the quantitative determination of vicine and convicine in fava beans and food products containing fava bean derived ingredients. We utilize UPLC-UV technology with a BEH-HILIC column to analyze vicine and convicine with a quantifiable limit of 20 mg/kg for raw materials. Finished products can be tested with a quantifiable limit of 2 mg/kg, however at this time these products are not fully validated with the method.
If you have questions or would like to discuss vicine and convicine testing and your product needs, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have.
5 Questions about Rapid Mold & Yeast Testing
NQAC Dublin has implemented a new Mold & Yeast method that will allow the laboratory to report results out in 3 days, rather than the 5 days required for the traditional Mold & Yeast methods. Below are five of our most frequently asked questions.
Why is it important to test for Mold and Yeast at my facility?
While not all molds or yeasts on food are dangerous, mold is an obvious and unappealing visual indicator to a consumer that quality may not be to their expectations. Both mold and yeasts can contribute to negative physical, chemical, and sensory properties of the food product.
Molds produce spores, which easily spread through the air, and its presence in a facility can quickly become a large-scale contamination issue.
Some molds (Aspergillus, Byssochamlys, Penicillium) can produce mycotoxins, and high levels of mold in a product could indicate this potentially deadly risk.
In yeast fermented products, enumeration of recoverable yeast can indicate what stage in the fermentation process the product is in.
What are the advantages of the Rapid Mold & Yeast method by Symphony agar over traditional methods?
Traditional mold/yeast methods only rely on the low pH of the agar to select against some bacteria. There are many groups of bacteria, however, that can grow at a low pH (lactic acid bacteria, in particular) and could out compete the target molds or yeasts, or even be mistaken for yeast. Symphony agar contains antibiotics to further reduce potential bacterial growth. This can be very beneficial for products with a high microbial load to provide a more accurate mold and yeast count.
Symphony agar also contains growth promoters to allow mold and yeast results to be counted and reported at 3 days instead of 5 days. This shorter time period gets results reported more quickly and reduces the risk of unreadable plates from common molds that spread over time.
The studies performed for method LI-00.753 implementation at our facility showed comparable recovery of target organisms to NQA-00.4100, while providing the above benefits.
The studies also showed comparable recovery of osmophilic mold and yeast strains to NQA-00.4420 in high sugar products, however equivalency to this method has not yet been fully evaluated.
Can this method tell me what type of mold or yeast is present?
LI-00.753 cannot determine specific mold or yeast organisms, however the shorter incubation period does allow for faster notification of mold and yeast presence; identification testing can be requested and initiated sooner. If mold or yeast identification will be required, please make sure to include this information with the sample submission to ensure the plates are retained. Some yeasts may be identified in-house using our MALDI-TOF platform, otherwise samples can be sent externally for further typing.
What types of things can I test?
Symphony agar allows the enumeration of yeasts and molds in all human and animal food products regardless of their water activity. It can also be used for environmental samples in production areas. Studies for method LI-00.753 implementation utilized various routine and challenging sample types, including dairy, confections, cocoa, coffee, high salt items, high sugar items, garlic, spices, flavorings, and more.
How will my results be reported?
LI-00.753 can be reported as mold only, yeast only, or both mold and yeast. If both mold and yeast are requested, you will receive a mold result and a yeast result, not a total number of organisms.
Updates to our Method Portfolio
Lower Limit of Quantitation: Arsenic Speciation by ICP-MS
Our Arsenic Speciation method will now be offered with revised Limit of Quantification (LOQ) of 5 µg/kg in liquid products and 10 µg/kg in dry products (defined as the sum of the As (III) and As (V) species).
The proposed limits for inorganic arsenic in the 2021 Baby Food Safety Act of 2021, if enacted, would lower the current allowable levels in baby food and will require laboratories to meet this new need.
To meet this new challenge, we have lowered our limits and will continue to work to meet the future needs for our infant and toddler food customers.
The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021
Ethylene Oxide (Total) – EO
Our new internal offering of Ethylene Oxide (Total) by GC-MS/MS will support submissions of high and low water content samples. Some examples are ice cream, herbs, vegetables, sauces, cereals, and thickeners.
The limit quantification equals 0.010 mg/kg for most matrices; however may increase of 0.025/0.050 mg/kg depending on matrix complexity.
Towards a consensus LC-MS/MS method for the determination of acrylamide in food that prevents overestimation due to interferences
NQAC Dublin is honored to have Chemist Ashley Griffin as a co-author in the recent publication in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants (1)
Griffin, a member of the AOAC working group on acrylamide analysis, led work performed at NQAC Dublin as a part of a collaborative multi-lab study to determine causes of over estimation in acrylamide measurement. Previously, N-acetyl-ß-alanine was identified as an interference that could create mis-quantitation in a wide variety of food matrices. This work follows up with an evaluation of methods that eliminate the bias that is created by this compound.
This work is important to laboratories, food producers, and consumers alike, as reliable measurement is fundamental to building confidence in any quality assurance approach and allows food producers to closely control their process to minimize risk and ultimately protect the consumer.
The U.S. National Toxicology Program considers acrylamide to be a human health concern as it has been shown to cause cancer in animals in high dose exposures. The European Union has also set benchmarks for acrylamide levels in certain food commodity groups and maximum residue levels in certain foods are currently being considered.
Acrylamide formation occurs during the cooking process of starchy foods when asparagine and reducing sugars are heated above 120°C through the Maillard reaction (2). This process contaminant makes products made from potatoes, cereal grains, and coffee susceptible to acrylamide formation during cooking. While some acrylamide formation is inevitable, producers can employ a variety of approaches to limit the formation through raw material selection and control of cooking processes (3).
If you have any questions about acrylamide testing in your products or raw materials, please reach out to NQAC Dublin Customer Service and we would be glad to help!
(1) Aurélien Desmarchelier, Aude Bebius, Frédérique Reding, Ashley Griffin, Marta Ahijado Fernandez, Jason Beasley, Emilie Clauzier & Thierry Delatour (2022) Towards a consensus LC-MS/MS method for the determination of acrylamide in food that prevents overestimation due to interferences, Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, Full article: Towards a consensus LC-MS/MS method for the determination of acrylamide in food that prevents overestimation due to interferences (tandfonline.com)
(2) Raffan S, Halford NG. 2019. Acrylamide in food: progress in and prospects for genetic and agronomic solutions. Ann Appl Biol. 175(3):259–281.
(3) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition “Guidance for Industry – Acrylamide in Foods”, March 2016
Chlorate and perchlorate – LC-MS/MS analytical method validation in a
broad range of food commodities
NQAC Dublin collaborated with three other NQAC locations and Nestlé Research in evaluating an analytical procedure for the routine monitoring of chlorate and perchlorate in a wide range of food matrices. This study will be published in an upcoming issue of Microchemical Journal and is based on the perchlorate/chlorate method currently ran at NQAC Dublin.
Please join us in congratulating one of our chemists, Ashley Griffin, in this awesome achievement!
Analysis Portfolio Updates
Our new internal offering of Alternaria Toxins monitors five mycotoxins produced by the Alternaria fungi and is applicable to a wide variety of foods.
The method has been validated on cereals, tomato-based products, tree nuts, vegetable oils, dried fruits, spices, cocoa, green coffee, herbs, and tea.
Samples are are prepared using a QuEChERS type extraction and the analysis employs liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass-spectrometry detection. Quantitation limits vary by matrix type and analyte, please refer to the below table for more information.
New Test Packages
Nutritional Composition Package
This test package includes the 8 major macronutrients needed for nutritional composition testing.
Extended Nutritional Composition Package
The Extended Nutritional Composition package includes the 8 major macronutrients as well as Fiber, Salt, and Sodium.
Veterinary Drugs Panel
This test package combines the four veterinary drugs methods we offer into one easy to select package. This option will allow you to ensure your veterinary drug testing needs are fully covered.
Nutritional Tests Package
The Nutritional Tests Package contains all of the analyses in the Nutritional Labeling package but without the label creation.
Dioxins and related compounds: What are they?
By: Darren Lease, Chemist and Andrew Savage, Expert Chemist
Dioxin and related compounds, known as PCDDs, PCDFs, and PCBs, are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are of concern due to their toxicity and chemical stability. These compounds are chemically related substances (congeners) that differ in the number and location of chlorine atoms on aromatic rings.
Dioxins are by-products of natural processes such as forest fires, and industrial processes including smelting, waste incineration, and the manufacturing of some herbicides and pesticides. Current technologies and approaches have reduced dioxin emissions significantly, but because of the persistence of these compounds in the environment, dioxins remain a threat to the food supply long after they are created1.
These compounds are also persistent once they enter the body as they tend to accumulate in fat tissues. Because of this, dioxins accumulate at higher levels moving up the food chain. Elevated exposures in the short term can cause chloracne, a rare skin eruption of blackheads, cysts and nodules2, and altered liver function. Long term exposure is linked to issues with the immune & nervous systems and TCDD (2,3,7,8 -Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) is classified by IARC as a “known human carcinogen”.
The measurement and reporting of Dioxins are evaluated with a toxicity equivalency quotient (TEQ) that evaluates the toxicity of the mixture of compounds. To facilitate this, each congener is assigned a toxicity equivalency factor (TEF) which is the ratio of estimated toxicity for a particular congener to the toxicity of the most toxic compound: 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). This testing is performed by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry after an extensive and specialized sample preparation.
In 2022, NQAC Dublin will be able to offer dioxins analysis on a variety of sample matrices.
Please reach out to our Customer Service team at email@example.com for assistance in setting up future testing or for any additional questions.
Chlorpyrifos tolerances set to expire for all commodities
By: Ke Du, Chemist and Andrew Savage, Laboratory Supervisor – Contaminants
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide commonly used on a wide variety of crops including corn, soybeans, grapes, apples, grains, and vegetables. It has been widely used in the U.S., with the USDA estimating that 3 to 5 million kg have been applied since it was introduced in 1965. Chlorpyrifos works by interrupting insect nervous systems and is effective against a wide range of invertebrate pests.
Usage for the chemical has declined in recent years as California placed significant restrictions on its use and the EU banned its sale in 2020. Additionally, increased pressure to address the neurotoxicity of the chemical has been raised to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by various groups over the last decade due to the potential effects on children and farm workers1.
On April 29th 2021, a federal appeals court ruled that the US must ban all uses of chlorpyrifos on food, or establish new residue levels for the insecticide that are safe for children. This final court rule became effective October 29, 2021 and as a result, the tolerances for all commodities expire on February 28, 20222.
Additional information regarding this final rule can be found at:
Frequent Questions about the Chlorpyrifos 2021 Final Rule | US EPA
NQAC Dublin can assist in screening for Chlorpyrifos using state-of-art of liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry instruments. Our NQA-54-0003 method offers testing to a limit of quantitation of 10 µg/kg for a wide range of food matrices (50 µg/kg for spices & difficult matrices) to help fulfill your regulatory & food safety requirements.
Please reach out to our Customer Service team at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance in setting up testing or for any additional questions.
Identification of newly recognized Listeria species at NQAC Dublin
By: Jeff Baldwin, Microbiologist
The genus Listeria currently includes 26 recognized species and 6 subspecies . Recent technological advances in whole genome sequencing have led to the discovery of many of these species. In addition, this technology has allowed researchers to divide the species into two clades, or groups in which the members are genetically similar and likely evolved from a common ancestor . The first clade – Listeria sensu stricto – is the clade of interest to public health since it includes the well-known food pathogen L. monocytogenes that causes listeriosis in humans . Therefore, detection of non-monocytogenes sensu stricto species is considered an indicator for an increased risk of L. monocytogenes contamination . The other clade – Listeria sensu lato – is found in the environment but is unable to colonize mammalian hosts due to missing genes involved in gastrointestinal infection .
Since 2009, the members of the Listeria sensu lato group (except for L. grayi) have been newly described through whole genome sequencing since they are unidentifiable by traditional biochemical methods. However, advanced tools have been developed that improve the accuracy in identifying organisms in the expanding Listeria genus . One such tool is the Bruker MALDI Biotyper System. It uses MALDI-TOF (Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time of Flight) mass spectrometry to determine the unique fingerprint of an organism based on a characteristic pattern of highly abundant proteins . This pattern is then used to identify the organism by matching it with an extensive and continuously updated reference library .
Here at NQAC Dublin, the MALDI Biotyper has allowed us to accurately identify two Listeria species that are not commonly found in food. The first of which, L. marthii, was first identified in 2010 and is in the Listeria sensu stricto clade. L. marthii is sometimes misidentified as L. innocua using traditional biochemical tests . The other unusual species we identified, L. newyorkensis, was first identified in 2015 and is in the Listeria sensu lato clade, so it is generally not considered a threat to public health . L. newyorkensis would be likely misidentified as L. grayi using traditional biochemical tests since L. grayi is the only member of Listeria sensu lato that is identifiable by these methods .
These recent technological advancements have allowed us at NQAC Dublin to provide our customers with accurate Listeria test results so that informed decisions about food quality and safety can be made.
Please reach out to us at email@example.com if you have any questions and we would be happy to help.
 Listeria cossartiae sp. nov., Listeria immobilis sp. nov., Listeria portnoyi sp. nov. and Listeria rustica sp. nov., isolated from agricultural water and natural environments | Microbiology Society (microbiologyresearch.org)
 Characteristics and distribution of Listeria spp., including Listeria species newly described since 2009 | SpringerLink
 Comparison between Listeria sensu stricto and Listeria sensu lato strains identifies novel determinants involved in infection | Scientific Reports (nature.com)
 MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry-based identification of Listeria species in surveillance: A prospective study
Veterinary Drugs: What are they and why should you test for them?
Veterinary drugs are classified by The Codex Alimentarius Commission as “any substance that is applied or administered to any food-producing animal, whether used for therapeutic, prophylactic, or diagnostic purposes, or for the modification of physiological functions or behaviors. These drugs are not limited to just antibiotics and wormers (anthelminthics); sedatives, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, dyes and substances with anabolic effects are also considered veterinary drugs.1 These drugs are often subject to regulations globally, that can vary based on the regulatory body that the product is subject to. These food regulations determine if there is threshold for a particular veterinary drug compound in products intended for consumption.
Consumers and food manufacturers often consider the impact that these substances may have on meat or milk-based products, but they do not always consider that veterinary drugs are also used in the fish and honey industries. For this reason, it is important to include products that include fish or honey ingredients in your testing plan. Depending on the regulation, the detection of these analytes may not pose a regulatory or health concern, but they can have an impact on consumer perception. This risk can be mitigated through a strong testing approach, ensuring that the analytical methods used are appropriate and valid, and that your materials are well characterized.
To learn more about the importance of validation parameters, test design, and the different types of testing available, please join us for our webinar on October 21.
September is Food Safety Education Month
This month, we are celebrating Food Safety Education with a series of videos from our laboratory experts. We look forward to sharing an FAQ and fun fact to spotlight some of our laboratories at NQAC Dublin.
Check out our Vitamins Laboratory Spotlight Video here. And remember to visit this page over the next few weeks for additional videos from our team.
*UPDATE: Now you can also check out our Contaminants Laboratory Spotlight Video here.
If you have any questions or need our testing support for your business, don’t hesitate to ask: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips for a Successful Environmental Monitoring Program
By: Andrea Chmelar, Microbiology Laboratory Supervisor
An Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) is critical for understanding the hygienic state of your facility. When done correctly, it provides valuable insight on how well your Good Manufacturing Practices and pre-requisite programs operate. But, just going through the motions is time-consuming and costly. Critical thinking and committed data analysis help to drive strategic improvements. Below are some tips for operating a successful EMP:
- Not all buffers are equal. Using the right one means that it is compatible with your sanitizer, testing platform and has the correct timeline for viability.
- Use the appropriate sampling device. The type and material you choose make a difference. Swabs and sponges both offer different advantages and disadvantages. Educate yourself on which is most appropriate for your facility.
- For dependable and accurate results, consistency is imperative. Be consistent with sample surface size, especially for hygiene indicators like aerobic plate count, Enterobacteriaceae, and E. coli.
- Pay attention to the potential for biofilms. Pressure during sampling and scrubbing is key to breaking these up. Several swabs are now available that are more durable and will stand up to heavy scrubbing.
- Seek and destroy! Often employees are afraid to find pathogens and choose areas that are easy to clean or less prone to contamination. Remember that if a pathogen is present, you want to know. Taking immediate action to eliminate, control, or reduce the issue will keep a small problem from turning into a big one.
- Evolve. You and your team work hard to collect all the information from your EMP. Track results in a spreadsheet or automated system and utilize heat maps for a visual picture of the hygiene in your facility. Revisit your program at least yearly.
Finally, time and temperature are often critical control points in the manufacturing process. They also ensure quality for sticks and swabs. Do not let all your hard work go to waste because you sent out your samples incorrectly or they sat in the fridge too long. Both can impact the viability of your swabs as significant die-offs can occur. Swabs and sponges should be shipped under the proper conditions to maintain a temperature of 0-10°C. Check with your manufacturer for the timeline most appropriate for your sampling tool.
If you need assistance with implementing a strong Environmental Monitoring Program, or have any questions regarding sampling devices and buffers, please reach out to us at email@example.com and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
No Price Increase for 2022
NQAC Dublin is here to help you prepare for next year’s testing budget. We are proud to announce there will not be an overall percent price increase applied to our methods and services in 2022. For any questions, our prices can be found using our online submission portal or contact our Customer Service team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Analysis Portfolio Updates
Trace Elements Quantification Limit Changes
Our Trace Elements (Heavy Metals) method will now be offered with lower QLs on Aluminum, Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury components. With this change, we will now be able to match the QL requirements in the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021.
Below you will find a quick snapshot of the current and future QLs:
Updates to Total Oligosaccharides Method
We are updating out Total Oligosaccharides method to provide new test variations that offer greater flexibility based on product type and the oligosaccharide present in the material. There are 4 testing options now available, as well as two new calculations:
- GOS Vivinal Profile
- GOS Clasado Profile
- GOS BMOS Profile
- GOS BMOS excluding 2FL, 6SL, LNT, LNnT
- GOS Disaccharides (calculation)
- Total GOS excluding Disaccharides (calculation)
Our new internal offering of Ergot Alkaloids will provide the quantitative determination of 12 ergot alkaloids and their sum (Ergot Alkaloids Total) by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).
The method has been validated on raw cereals (wheat, corn, rice, barley, rye, oat, triticale, millet, sorghum, and spelt), infant cereals, whey protein powder and cereal-based baby foods with a limit of quantification on each reported analyte of 0.5 µg/kg (sum 6.0 µg/kg).
Shelf-Stable Foods and Bacterial Spoilage
Shelf-stable foods are non-perishable products that can be safely stored at room temperature1. These products typically have undergone some preservation process and are considered “commercially sterile”. While commercially sterile products will not spoil or cause illness under normal circumstances, this does not mean that the products are completely sterile; they may be subject to some form of bacterial spoilage. For canned products, spoilage may be caused by a range of factors including insufficient thermal processing and post-process contamination, known as leakage.
Insufficient thermal processing generally causes spoilage through bacterial spore growth, either with or without gas production. When the outgrowth of spore-forming bacteria results in acid production without gas production this is known as “flat-sour” spoilage2. When gas production is present, this can cause bloating and rupturing of the finished product packaging. Spoilage due to thermal processing insufficiency is characterized by the presence of a pure culture of spore forming microorganisms.
Post-process contamination is characterized by the presence of a mixed culture of spore-formers and different vegetative flora. This type of spoilage can be caused by defective seams, dirty conveyor systems, or poor operation of filled can handling equipment3. In both cases, a physical examination of container integrity should be completed in addition to examination for viable organisms. This provides a better understanding of where in the process the issue may have occurred.
For both insufficient thermal processing and post-process contamination, further investigation outside of laboratory testing is needed to identify the root cause of the issue. This should include an examination of full lot information and related data for trends and patterns before arriving at any conclusions into the cause of the spoilage.
If you need assistance with laboratory evaluation of spoilage, NQAC Dublin is here to help. We offer commercial sterility testing to help ensure your thermal processing is effective as well as spoilage assessment evaluations if potential spoilage in a product is noted. Please reach out to us at email@example.com and we would be happy to provide answer any questions you may have.
A. Zottola, SPOILAGE | Bacterial Spoilage, Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition), 2003, Pages 5506-5510. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B012227055X011287)
Henriëtte M. C. Put, H. J. Witvoet, and W. R. Warner, Mechanism of Microbiological Leaker Spoilage of Canned Foods: Biophysical Aspects, Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 43, No. 6, Pages 488-497. (https://meridian.allenpress.com/jfp/article/43/6/488/205581/Mechanism-of-Microbiological-Leaker-Spoilage-of)