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Traceability mandates from the Food Safety Modernization Act, which has finally been given more or less complete life as the FDA has issued most of its proposed regulations, are a big driver of technology choices in laboratory equipment for food safety, say industry representatives.
“People are looking more rigorously at testing,” says Paula De Oliveira, marketing manager, food and environmental markets for Thermo Fisher Scientific. “They want computer systems that are better able to help them keep track of their products and sample results, manage vendors and many of different pieces of data so that if the need arises, they can easily access that data for purposes of an audit or a recall.”
In regards to microbiology, the push is always toward solutions that give a faster result, with polymerase chain reaction still dominating. “On the chemical analysis side, whereas in the past a lab may have been satisfied with a single quadrupole mass spectrometer, these days people are looking more for triple quad technology,” says the Thermo Fisher spokesperson. “Laws are getting more stringent in terms of what you can have in terms of chemical residue, and the newer technologies can make complying with those requirements easier,” De Oliveira says. Triple quadrupole systems offer higher selectivity, better signal-to-noise ratios, and better accuracy and reproducibility, particularly at lower concentrations.
When it comes to sample preparation, microwave technology is meeting a growing demand for higher throughput, says Robert Walker, product manager for the analytical division at CEM. Concerns about mercury in ocean fish, on the wane for a time, has led to a higher demand for mercury sample preparation as consumers try to eat healthier.
Other areas of increasing interest for product testing include nutritional supplements sourced from overseas. “There is concern about lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury in ‘nutraceuticals’ from places like China,” Walker says. Packaging is also a growing area of concern. “I went to a packaging show in November, and there are more and more worries about anything migrating from the packing material to the foodstuff, especially if it’s stored at temperatures hotter than those recommended.”
Shaw writes frequently about science, medicine, and health while serving as a regular contributor on notable medical publications.
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