Health scares and regulations drive analysis developments

Public health scares and tougher regulation are, as Sean Ottewell finds out, helping to boost spending in the food and drink laboratory science sector.

New from Thermo Fisher Scientific is an efficient high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method using ultraviolet (UV) detection for the simultaneous determination in drinking water of all 19 phthalate compounds listed in key environmental regulatory documents.

A research document, Determination of Phthalates in Drinking Water by UHPLC with UV Detection, demonstrates that the phthalates listed in European Union Directive 2005/84/EC, US Environmental Protection Agency Methods 606 and 8061A, the Chinese HJ/T 72-2001, and the Standardisation Administration of China GB/T 20388-2006 and GB/T 21911-2008 are well separated on a reversed-phase HPLC column in less than 25 minutes.

Phthalates are a class of chemical compounds widely used as plasticisers for polyvinyl chloride resins, adhesives, and cellulose film coating. They are potentially hazardous to human health - especially to children's health - due to their classification as endocrine disruptors. This has resulted in regulations regarding the types and levels of phthalates allowable in plastic toys, water containers, textiles, and foods.

In a separate development, the company has also released Total Solutions for Isohumulones in Beer, a robust, user-friendly, and fast on-line, SPE-UHPLC method that improves the traditional off-line SPE-HPLC analysis of these chemicals.

Isohumulones (iso-α-acids) form approximately 80 per cent of the typical bitterness of beer. Their antimicrobial effect leads to a sterile beverage, their tensioactive character stabilises the foam, and they have a major influence on the general flavour, smell, and smoothness of beer.

HPLC represents the only analytical method that enables the specific quantitation of iso-α-acids in beer. Total Solutions for Isohumulones in Beer provides the determination and quantitation of all major cis- and trans-isomer variants of iso-α-acids that are present.

The solution consists of a Thermo Scientific Dionex UltiMate 3000 system package and its related Thermo Scientific Isohumulones starter kit. As the starter kit provides all of the consumables, analysis can be started immediately.

The company cites a number of advantages to the on-line sample preparation approach: it speeds up and automates labour-intensive sample clean-up and enrichment processes, making direct injection of untreated samples and unattended 24/7 operation a reality; the beer sample can be injected without any sample preparation; and the workflow completes the analysis in nine minutes as compared to one hour needed by off-line SPE-HPLC analysis.

Quick wine analyses

The RX Monaco analyser from Randox Food Diagnostics is now validated for use on wine. With the company's semi-automated RX Monza analyser already widely used throughout the industry, the firm recognised that medium-to-large producers could benefit from a quicker turn-around and economies of scale offered by a fully-automated system. As a supplier of a full range of analysers within the RX series, Randox identified the Monaco as a cost-effective solution with a throughput appropriate to a broad spectrum of wineries' needs.

A key benefit with Monaco is that producers can test for the full range of parameters including malic acid, glucose/fructose and ethanol from a single sample, increasing efficiency and cutting the cost per test.

With direct application and no sample preparation requirements the system reduces time and labour costs, bringing the overall cost per test down to circa EUR0.35 as well as producing a result every few seconds.

High demand is anticipated from wineries in remote locations that currently send results off-site to central laboratories and then experience several days' turnaround. Cutting out these delays means that winemakers and laboratory technicians can make the appropriate adjustments to processes immediately, improving overall quality of the wine.

For larger producers the accuracy of the Monaco means it is also appropriate to be used as a corroboration application for systems already in place.

Randox is also helping to tackle international trade disputes by meeting the demand for beta-agonists diagnostics. For example, meat producers in the USA and Brazil have experienced difficulties exporting to Chinese, Russian and European food markets because of the level of beta agonist veterinary drugs in meat - particularly Ractopamine and Zilpaterol.

Beta-agonists are a group of drugs that act on b-adrenergic receptors and are used in veterinary and human medicine to treat cardiovascular and breathing disorders. Commercially, beta agonists are used to increase muscle growth and decrease fat deposition in animals.

Zilpaterol is a powerful beta adrenergic agonist that has been developed as a growth promoter for cattle leading to enhanced weight gain and carcass yield. Of particular concern is the use of beta agonist drugs prior to slaughter as this poses a risk to the human health if contaminated meat enters the food chain.

In response, Randox has released Zilpaterol testing products on both ELISA and biochip array formats onto the market. The company reports that uptake has been very encouraging, with demand particularly strong from producers in Brazil and the USA.

More vet screening

Eurofins Scientific has launched a high-resolution LC-MS-based screening method for around 100 antibiotics and antiparasitics in meat and fish in order to provide broader protection across the food chain from risk of contamination.

In response to growing concerns over potential risk of contamination from veterinary drug residues following the horsemeat scandal in Europe and ongoing discussions on increasing antibiotic resistances, Eurofins' new screening method offers customers novel opportunities and improved cost efficiency in the complex field of veterinary drug screening. Compared to conventional screening methods such as inhibitory tests, the new HR-LC-MS method covers around 100 targeted substances including metabolites with high selectivity and sensitivity. With its broad substance scope and the additional newly-created spectral libraries, the method efficiently minimises the risk of over-looking health hazards related to veterinary drugs.

Eurofins' comprehensive Risk-Orientated Veterinary Drug Testing package includes screening and confirmatory methods for more than 250 active substances, including antibiotics, antiparasitcs, hormones, beta agonists, endocrine disruptors and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

In addition to the new high-resolution LC-MS device, a broad range of state-of-the-art LC-MS/MS instruments as well as automated sample preparation equipment assure short turn-around-times (TAT) and high-quality, reliable analytical results. Furthermore, given that the above substances present varying degrees of relevance for risk monitoring, Eurofins' highly-trained staff offer customised analytical scopes based on animal species, country of origin and the stage of sampling within the food supply chain, according to evaluations of the European Rapid Alert Systems for Food and Feed (RASFF).

Finally, a new centre has been opened in Australia to help enhance food and beverage analysis capability and drive up quality standards in the industry there.

Agilent Technologies has opened the US$25 million (EUR18 million) Spectroscopy Technology Innovation Centre in Mulgrave, which houses cutting-edge research and testing laboratories, in addition to customer demonstration and training facilities.

The state-of-the-art facility is based in the Monash Technology Precinct and offers advanced communications technology to enhance collaboration between the company's various divisions, as well as key research partners and customers around the world.

As spectroscopy instruments remain essential measurement tools in a variety of applications, the centre was built to foster Agilent's atomic absorption spectrometer, which plays a major role in the food market for measuring both quality and contaminants.

Mike McMullen, president of Agilent's chemical analysis group, said: "The open-plan areas for project teams have been designed to foster interaction and to help improve customer and field linkages. Most importantly, our time-to-market for new products will be improved as we pursue our goal of clear leadership in our chosen markets."

Phenomenex publishes comprehensive food safety applications guide

Food consumption is a necessity for everyone. In compliance with the CODEX ALIMENTARIUS guidelines methods of analysis should be reliable, display intra-laboratory repeatability as well as inter-laboratory reproducibility, be selective, sensitive, and should have proper limits of detection/quantification.

Now Phenomenex, a global leader in the research and manufacture of advanced technologies for the separation sciences, has published a 92-page Food Safety Solutions guide. Available in print and digital format, the guide presents 41 complete applications for all of the frequently requested food compound classes and draws on all analytical techniques - sample preparation, HPLC, UHPLC, LC/MS and GC/MS.

The guide highlights methods created through Phenomenex's Rapid Response Unit collaboration with AB SCIEX, including iMethod Applications for Cliquid software. Phenomenex's complete line of solid phase extraction (SPE) sorbents and QuEChERS and filtration products are also highlighted.

"Concern for food safety is on the rise globally, creating the need for analysis of a wide range of imports and exports," explains Allen Misa, brand manager for Phenomenex. "We offer a comprehensive selection of solutions for the analysis of food substances, along with application support and method development services through our PhenoLogix team."

The new Food Safety Solutions guide contains sections on the analysis of contaminants, pesticide residues, allergens and fraudulent practices. A section on veterinary medical products is also included.

Phenomenex itself offers solutions for screening and confirmatory methods for a variety of hazards including mycotoxins, environmental and process contaminants, food contact materials, pesticides and veterinary product residues, and allergens.

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