Our Latest News
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.
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)
New and Updated Methods at NQAC Dublin
NQAC Dublin recently updated our mycotoxin screen to include Deoxynivalenol-3-Glucoside. DON-3-G is one of the primary metabolites of deoxynivalenol (DON), and is of interest when evaluating the total deoxynivalenol content of a sample. The limit of quantification is 50 µg/kg with a routine turnaround time of 7 days. A rush turnaround time is also available at 5 days.
Tropane Alkaloids (TA) are secondary metabolites naturally occurring in several plant families, including Solanaceae and Brassicaceae. Although over 200 tropane alkaloids are known, (-)-scopolamine and (-)-hyoscyamine are the main alkaloids produced. (-)-hyoscyamine undergoes racemization over time and the racemic mixture of is called atropine. This method provides quantitative analysis for tropane alkaloids, atropine and scopolamine.
This method has a limit of quantitation of 1 µg/kg for oil and 0.5 µg/kg for all other matrices. Routine turnaround time for this method is 7 days and a rush turnaround time is 5 days.
Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO)
Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) are the third most abundant solid component of breast milk, after fat and lactose. They play a key role in the healthy development of babies, preventing infections, and promoting the growth of healthy bacteria.
Our HMO in Infant Formula analysis has been expanded to include difucosyllactose, lacto-n-tetraose, lacto-n-neotetraose, 3’-sialyllactose, and 6’-sialyllactose. The turnaround time for this method is set at a routine turnaround of 14 days and a rush turnaround of 10 days. The limit of quantitation varies by component.
Please visit our technical data sheets below to learn more.
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.