Evaluation of many critical control points for food safety requires evidence from chemical analysis. Regulatory and Technical Managers in the agri-food sector must have near encyclopaedic knowledge of the risks, occurrence likelihood, management, controls and regulation of potential hazards, from allergens and authenticity to zero-tolerance of xenobiotics. On top of that, modern chemical and bio-analytical measurement science is complex and peppered with acronyms. Molecular biology provides its own puzzles, when does RT-PCR mean Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction, and what is ddPCR?
Hard-pressed managers inevitably rely on their laboratory to guide them through the correct technique, what the acronyms mean, when it should (or should not) be applied, and what caveats apply to the resulting measurement data. Thus, choosing a laboratory and your relationship with their scientists and technicians will be critical to the successful use of the resulting data. This is especially true for global supply chains, for example, the detection capability (often termed ‘sensitivity, although this has a specific definition – see below) required for analysis for ethanol may differ by at least one order of magnitude between jurisdictions, where alcohol is or is not a socially significant parameter.
This IFST Information Statement has been prepared by a small team of experienced measurement scientists and members of the IFST Scientific Committee. It is pitched at Regulatory and Technical Managers in food businesses. Much of the material will also be of interest if your business has its own in-house laboratory.
There are many technical issues discussed in this document, but it cannot be too heavily stressed that two-way dialogue is central to a productive and satisfactory relationship with your chemical or bio-analytical provider. Both parties must be open to this. You, the customer, must be willing to explain your needs and constraints and listen to the advice of your chosen laboratory. The laboratory must be honest about its capabilities and the limitations, often imposed by scientific rather than commercial considerations, of any of its offerings.
It is assumed the question of having chemical analysis carried out has been considered, a decision to proceed has been made and the process is now at the stage where concrete plans to choose and instruct a laboratory, or group of laboratories, has been reached.
The choice and instruction of a laboratory for microbiological analysis is discussed in IFST Information Statement: ‘Microbiological Analysis - key considerations’
At an early stage, an indicative budget should be considered. This will need to be checked against the criteria below and it is likely that it will need to be revised, usually upwards.
Sampling is crucial for valid data and is dealt with in IFST Information Statement: ‘Sampling for Food Analysis - key considerations’
Read full IFST Information Statement and access other relevant Information Statements.