COVID-19 has certainly brought an ever changing “new normal” to the food industry but one thing that will be a sure constant in 2022 is that food safety and quality testing will continue to be important for the integrity of the global food chain. Moreover, it remains critical to meeting regulations, keeping food processing lines up and running efficiently and meeting consumer demands and expectations.
But the new year also will bring new trends to watch and leverage when it comes testing. There are new technologies from the farm to the processing plant and these include more early, fast and portable testing for more automated workflow and improved ease of use.
Rapid, Portable Testing Solutions Bring Earlier, Easier Insights
The next wave of quick, reliable and “in-field” testing technologies are enabling testing both on the go and at the source. The increasing use of near-infrared (NIR) and infrared (IR) instruments provide portable, easy to use and robust solutions that deliver reliable results quickly and empower insightful decision making at important and earlier points in the food chain.
At milk collection points, for example, simple push-button IR-based analyzers produce real-time results for fat, protein content, and adulterant screening, in just 30 seconds. This allows for on-the-spot decision making involving issues of payment, quality, and safety.
Lateral flow strips and hand-held readers are another good example of portable, accurate, ingredient screening solutions. In the grain industry, strip tests provide farmers, grain elevators, and grain intakes with an intuitive tool to confirm the presence of mycotoxins in approximately six minutes. These water-based kits also remove issues around solvent use and disposal.
Even once traditional high-tech analytical technologies are finding their way outside the lab. Simple to use, fast, and portable gas chromatography (GC) instruments are now available with applications rapidly multiplying.
These types of solutions not only allow accurate analysis to be performed by non-technical personnel outside traditional lab settings, but also identify quality and risk factors of ingredients before they enter the processing chain.
Automation and Process Monitoring Continue to Gain Steam
The use of automated testing technologies in food, beverage and cannabis testing is expected to continue to grow. By automating labor intensive and time-consuming steps of the testing process, such as sample prep, workflows are streamlined for important methods such as LC/MSMS. Combined with integrated lab software and reagent/standards kits, set-it-and-forget-it analysis is increasingly a reality.
On-line, process monitoring instruments also add to food processors’ arsenal of testing tools. Process NIR instruments installed on multiple production lines simultaneously and feed data to central control rooms, for example, and provide real-time measurements of multiple parameters in the process stream. Whether monitoring a batch or continuous process, these NIR solutions provide a complete analysis fingerprint of the entire run helping to ensure consistency, reduce waste and down-time, while optimizing production throughput.
These automated technologies also help reduce potential sources of human error and product hold times while waiting for lab results.
Ease-of-Use Means Testing for All
Along with enhanced power and sophistication of testing and analysis technologies, ease of use and lower maintenance are also a must. Single push-button dedicated analyzers, increasingly intuitive software, and more user-friendly interfaces will continue to be a trend into 2022.
By simplifying analytical testing, plant operators can more easily perform required analysis, rather than highly trained scientists. Further, the newest generation of software provides easy-to-interpret results, delivering decision making power without extensive training.
Additionally, sometimes overlooked but equally important is ease of repair. Increasingly smart instrument design helps not only reduce maintenance frequency, it also reduces instrument downtime during repairs. This leads to greater uptime, lower cost of ownership, and less disruption to production when test results are vital to keep a plant or line running.
The Future is Bright for Food Testing & Analysis
With cost reduction and efficiency improvements and meeting regulatory and consumer demands being the never-ending goals for the food industry, it’s now paramount to gain and leverage knowledge about safety, quality and process performance.
Ingredient screening is an ultimate example that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Automation, process monitoring, and simplification of testing all help create more profitable, safe, sustainable, and nutritious foods. In turn, instrument and testing suppliers need to increasingly create testing innovations that are fast, accurate, and easy-to-use.
This will continue to help food producers do what they do best - make affordable, tasty, nutritious, safe foods – all while not having to be analytical chemists.
We strategically partner with customers to enable earlier and more accurate insights supported by deep market knowledge and technical expertise. Our dedicated team of about 15,000 employees worldwide is passionate about helping customers work to create healthier families, improve the quality of life, and sustain the well-being and longevity of people globally. The Company reported revenue of approximately $3.8 billion in 2020, serves customers in 190 countries, and is a component of the S&P 500 index.