Food scares prompt analysis advances

Recent food scares are increasing demands on vendors for fast, efficient solutions to identify and deal with potential problems. Sean Ottewell reports.

Eurofins, a leader in residue testing in food and agricultural products, is collaborating with AB SCIEX, a global leader in analytical technology, and Phenomenex, a leader in separation science, to develop methods to analyse animal feed for the presence of antibiotic and fungicide residues.

The first output of this collaboration is an application for the analysis of nine antibiotics and four insecticides in poultry feeds, covering five different antibiotic drug classes.

The use of antibiotics as feed additives serves the primary function to protect animals from illness; however, these antibiotic residues are not always fully metabolised by the animal and can ultimately accumulate in the edible tissues of the animal, making their way into the food supply.

In addition, the potential impact of increasing human exposure to these antibiotics may contribute to an increase in populations of antibiotic-resistant micro-organisms (so-called 'super bugs'), resulting in less effective treatments when human illness occurs.

Insecticides and pesticides can also sometimes be found in animal feeds - either introduced from the crop used to create the feed, or in the feeding pens where they are used to reduce insect contaminations.

Eurofins identified a need to ramp up testing for various chemical residues in animal feed, including feather meals - feeds made with chicken feathers - after banned antibiotic residues were found in some feed products. Eurofins chose to work with AB SCIEX and Phenomenex as trusted partners for food safety testing.

"For a food testing lab, feeds are a notoriously challenging matrix to analyse," said John Reuther, president of Eurofins CAL, Eurofins' US Competence Caentre for Residue and Contaminant Analysis. "By taking a leadership role in the food testing community, we are delivering robust and reliable methods not only to improve the analysis of animal feed but also to provide the best solutions to help our customers in the food and feed industries effectively address the growing industry demands of improved product quality and safety. Working together with AB SCIEX and Phenomenex gives us the technological capabilities to successfully execute our residue test methods, which ultimately help protect the global food supply."

"Leading food testing companies, such as Eurofins, choose to work with AB SCIEX because of our deep knowledge base in analysing complex food samples and developing next-generation, food contaminant testing solutions," noted Vincent Paez, senior director of food and environmental business with AB SCIEX. "Given the challenges of the difficult matrix that animal feeds present, we are utilising the power of advanced technologies, including QTRAP LC/MS/MS technology, to assist in producing high-quality, reliable results," he added.[Page Break]

Water purity

Located in Goole, England, Britannia Foods Ingredients was formed in 1966 and today produces a range of speciality fats for the chocolate, confectionery, biscuit and snack food industries. Like all manufacturing companies, Britannia Foods must comply with strict regulations to ensure that trade effluent entering the public sewerage system is pre-monitored to ensure it does not contain any harmful chemical levels.

The company's trade effluent is handled by Yorkshire Water, who issue consents relating to factors including the rate and maximum volume of the discharge, the temperature of the discharge and where the discharge may be made.

In order to comply with its trade effluent consent and ensure protection of human health, Britannia Food Ingredients selected Analytical Technology's Q45P AutoClean pH monitors and D15-76 monitor with an Air Blast AutoClean system to indicate water quality and the presence of suspended solids in its waste water stream.

The D15-76 monitor has enabled the company to realise turbidity measurements down to 0.001 Nephlometric turbidity units (NTU) and as high as 4000 NTU, eliminating the need for separate high and low ranges.

"The monitors have enabled us to comply with the stringent trade effluent consent criteria outlined by Yorkshire Water, providing reliability and giving us peace of mind that our effluent will not negatively impact upon the environment or the sewerage system," said Britannia Food Ingredients operations manager Richard Stockdale.

Meanwhile Bruker has released an application note detailing the development for analysis of microcystins in drinking water, by direct injection on the recently-introduced EVOQ Elite liquid chromatography mass spectrometer triple quadrupole (LC-MS/MS).

Microcystins (MCs) are cyclic heptapeptides produced by cyanobacteria in lakes and reservoirs that experience seasonal algal bloom. MCs are toxic to animals and humans, with widespread adoption of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) guidelines of 1µg/l in drinking water.

Using the EVOQ Elite LC-MS, Bruker has developed the method for the detection and quantification of three common MCs (MC-LR, -YR, -RR) in drinking water to ensure its safety (Fig. 1).

The application note is available to download at <>

The application note explores the high sensitivity of the EVOQ Elite LC-MS/MS, in detecting parts per billion (ppb) concentrations of MCs. Water containing three common cyanobacterial toxins was directly injected into the EVOQ.

The MCs were examined over three orders of dynamic range, from 50 ppb to 0.05 ppb. The EVOQ proved sensitive to detect 0.00 ppb of MCs with good repeatability of <10 per cent relative standard deviation (RSD), far exceeding the guideline set by the WHO of 1µ/l, demonstrating that the EVOQ Elite can easily be utilised to ensure safe levels of MCs in drinking water.

Bruker marketing director Meredith Conoley said: "The EVOQ Elite is designed to deliver game-changing performance for laboratories involved in high throughput quantitation. Innovations in hardware, including the revolutionary Active Exhaust and Orifice Interface, have contributed to an LC-MS/MS of exceptional sensitivity, while the EVOQ's IQ Dual Ion Funnel, VIP-HESI and the new PACER software make it user-friendly and cost-effective. With its sustained high performance, the EVOQ Elite offers advantages to any lab conducting routine analysis of water quality, as well as environmental monitoring and food testing."[Page Break]

Antimicrobial testing

Antimicrobials are used to kill or prevent the presence of bacteria or viruses that are detrimental to health. They are used in the food production industry to treat infections but also to act as a growth promoting compound.

The use of certain antimicrobials has been banned in food producing animals in many countries and maximum residue limits (MRLs) have been set in order to monitor antimicrobial usage.

A reliable and cost-effective screening method is required within the honey testing industry to ensure that the produce on our shelves is safe for consumers.

Randox Food Diagnostics has developed the new antimicrobial array IV (AMIV) to detect multiple antimicrobial compounds in a single honey sample on the Evidence Investigator screening analyser.

Unlike other commercially available kits that provide qualitative determination only, the AMIV testing platform is able to discriminate between compounds, providing a quantitative concentration.

According to Randox, benefits of the AMIV array include: excellent sensitivity - detects both marker residue and metabolites; rapid sample preparation - simple dilution in buffer allows 630 tests in under two hours; the novel test platform can detect 37 aminoglycosides and macrolide compounds; and it is the only commercially available test kit for Apramycin, Josamycin, Paromomycin, Amikacin, Hygromycin B, Tobramycin, Desmycosin and Tylosin.

Starter pack

In a separate development, the company is now offering the RX Monza starter package for wine, beverage and fermentation industries.

This is a compact semi-automated analyser for use in testing wine. It is ideally suited as a point of call for first time testing within the wine and beverage industry.

Performing tests is easy and straightforward with simple procedures and on-board step by step instructions, making it suited to any levels of experience or expertise.[Page Break]

Spectrometer to measure nitorgen content in grain

Analytik, a leading supplier of innovative analytical solutions to the UK and Ireland, has reported success following use of the AgriSpec portable near-infrared (NIR) spectrometer from ASD at Rothamsted Research, the longest running agricultural research station in the world. The spectrometer is used for nitrogen measurements in grain.

Andrew Riche has worked at Rothamsted since 1994 on the agronomy and physiology of arable crops. His current research is focused on wheat pre-breeding research, studying a diverse range of germplasm and looking particularly at improving nitrogen and phosphorus use efficiency.

One of his routine tasks is to measure the amount of nitrogen in grain. Such measurements were performed with a combustion analyser but with increasing workloads and extended time for sample preparation being required, a new solution was required. This is driven by the changing research goals.

Riche explained: "Our research is into wheat nutrition, particularly nitrogen use efficiency.

"We have recently expanded the field trials work to around 7000 plots/year generating around 14,000 plant samples (grain plus straw) which require nitrogen analysis. With so many samples, we were looking for a cheaper and quicker method of analysis."

He added: "We chose the AgriSpec for a number of reasons. I like its robustness - much of our work is done in a lab. It is not a typical lab. We have thousands of relatively large samples, with associated dust and other contaminants."

Riche concluded: "The range of attachments for the AgriSpec is good. By using the sample turntable, we can easily and rapidly estimate grain nitrogen content without having to mill the samples - saving a lot of time."

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