Food taste in general reflects some of the components of the food served on the platter but it does not tell what are the exact micronutrients and other ingredients the food is made up of. Therefore, food testing is one of the main aspects food manufacturing industries follow.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated some frightening figures. Every 1 in 6 Americans, which is nearly 48 million people every year, get affected by food and beverages contamination and 3000 people lose their precious life. This has imposed a huge amount of pressure on the healthcare sector ending up spending more than $15.6 billion each year. Therefore, it is very evident that healthcare sectors and food manufacturing industries execute proper, high-quality research and testing processes that will enhance the quality of ingredients in foods and also impose strong actionable policies to ensure safety to the utmost.
What is food testing and why is it performed?
Food testing is the final step of the multistage process of food manufacturing that determines the contents of food and scientific analysis of the ingredients. This ensures credible composition, structure, and physicochemical properties of food.
However, this process also controls some other key regulators that ensure food safety such as
- Quality control
- Food inspection and grading to meet the laws and standards set by the government.
- Ensure the standardized nutritional level
- Bring out improvement in research that will result in manufacturing high-quality, healthy, affordable food and many more.
The process that ensures quality
Food testing can be done through several highly advanced scientific techniques that depict accurate information about food content, accurate nutritional value, and traceability that promises safety without any contaminants or residues.
The highly efficient techniques that impart all of the above to manufactured food items include
- Analytical chemistry testing technique
This technique controls standardized pH and checks additives, color, contaminants, preservatives, minerals, trace elements, and other integral elements that, if not properly regulated, can reduce the safety level of the food product. Analytical chemistry testing ensures the separation, identification, and quantification of natural and artificial chemical components in a holistic way.
- Food microbiology testing technique
There are several microorganisms that are ‘good’ to maintain efficiency in the function of our digestive system and other physiological processes. However, there are ‘bad’ ones too. Some may severely damage normal physiological processes and cause acute infection. Therefore, it is very important to eradicate those microorganisms that can inhabit and contaminate food products.
Testing for pathogens and other spoilage organisms helps in increasing the quality and safety by reducing the frequency of food poisoning. Moreover, this protects the whole food supply chain from contamination and prevents serious health hazards.
- Food nutrition analysis technique
This is one of the most important safety check techniques. Most customers check the nutritional content of food products before investing and hence providing accurate information on the nutritional value of the food is necessary.
Labeling food with proper nutritional value is also one of the requirements for manufacturers to export or import any food product to maintain the regulations of destination countries.
- Sensory testing technique
This technique involves the identification of food properties utilizing the human sensory system ( sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch). For instance, through smell testing, olfactory receptors in the nose depict rancidity in a food product whereas, in tasting, sensory receptors of the tongue decide whether the food is sweet or sour or other.
- Allergen testing technique
Allergens are proteins that can appear in food products due to mishandling and trigger hypersensitivity of the immune system and sometimes severe reactions. Therefore, finding out any kind of allergen in ingredients or finished food products is mandatory. Some of the well-known food allergens that are regulated routinely include gluten in peanuts, grains, eggs, etc.
Importance of food product testing
Nurturing and sustaining the quality of food products and also meeting the high supply chain demand are both extremes that food manufacturing industries struggle to balance with. Moreover, since the pandemic hit the world, preventing any sort of food infection and other health problems has become one of the prime concerns of manufacturing and safety authorities. Along with accelerated supply and other factors for maintenance quality, it is very evident authorities shift more of their concerns to certain aspects that include
- Metal detection challenges– this process is used to detect foreign metals in food ingredients. Some foods for instance freshly baked bread, cheese, and meats are more prone to contain metals in the final products. Metals such as stainless steel are hard to get detected through these metal detectors. Therefore, the necessity of high efficient detection methods in food testing is the absolute need that can avoid excessive incorrect rejections, impacting the operational efficiency supply chain.
- Food fraud– This is one of the growing concerns that the world is facing. According to the data from the Food and Drug Administration, it has become one prominent business with nearly about $50 billion in annual revenue. Food fraud is the intentional selling of food products that are not standardized and up to the concerned safety, for economic gain. These growing businesses are constantly imposing criminal threats to society and need a strong, vigilant governance system to eradicate them completely.
Mobile food testing labs
With all the growing problems associated with food contamination, one approach towards its eradication can be targeting the grassroots level. This is exactly what mobile food testing labs do in certain countries across the world.
The main purpose is to provide a preliminary result on food testing, that if it contains a high degree of adulteration can be sent for examination in highly sophisticated testing labs and educate people on the importance of maintaining the originality and safety of food products.
According to the statistics of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 15% of U.S. food products are imported from other countries and there are many such countries that have a higher percentage of imported food. Consequently, implications of vigilant laws and high standardization of quality and efficient techniques that reproduce rapid results yet maintain high supply-demand have become essential.