The supply of food and beverages is now a massive worldwide industry generating trillions of pounds for producers, retailers and intermediaries. ‘Value’ is generally added at each stage of a product’s life and certain foods or beverages have ‘added value’ as a result of a designated geographical origin or as a result of production using a specified process.
In recent years ‘issues’ relating to the safety, quality and origin of food have arisen as a result of mistakes in the production process, such as the introduction of waste materials into food production processes, or via illicit production or adulteration.
The analysis of foods, raw materials and ingredients may be undertaken by a number of different organisations, for a number of different reasons potentially pertaining to quality, for the purposes of brand protection or even for evidence in prosecution. In response to increasingly sophisticated counterfeiting or food adulteration, a wide range of analytical methodology is being developed and used by concerned organisations and agencies. An important aspect of method development and the on-going operation of analytical methods is verification of their performance by the use of Proficiency Testing (PT). PT is a unique tool for the assessment of these analytical methods as it is completely independent of the organisation undertaking the testing and is the only QC ‘tool’ where the analyst cannot know the correct answer in advance.
LGC operates a number of proficiency testing (PT) schemes, many of which are in the area of food and beverage analysis. These schemes are routinely used to assess the performance of analytical methods which have been validated for the qualitative identification of specific food products, or to quantitatively determine the concentration of characteristic components or contaminants.
The DAPS scheme focuses on the analysis of alcoholic beverages, such as cider, wine and spirits, with a specific sample included each round for the analysis of Scotch Whisky.
The QMAS scheme is concerned with methods used for the determination of quality parameters in meat and fish products. As a result of recent food ‘concerns’ the scheme has been expanded to include tests for the identification of fish species and of ‘contamination’ of meat and fish products.
The use of regular PT in these analytical areas, via the LGC schemes, provides valuable information on the performance of laboratories in key tests which are used on a day to day basis to detect counterfeit products and adulteration. Examination of PT data gives information on the accuracy and equivalence of analytical methods, robustness across a range of sample types and analytical matrices and the ‘performance’ of companies, laboratories and individual members of staff.
To find out more about how PT Schemes are used to tackle food and beverage fraud come to our Government Chemist Conference ‘Beating the cheats: Quality, safety and authenticity in the food chain’ on 24-25 November.