Food safety is virtually impossible for the consumer to actively assess in the supermarket aisle.
The shopper must rely on good industry practice and robust state regulation to have confidence that the food they eat is fit for consumption.
Food security is fast becoming a major issue throughout the consumer market along with food producers and retailers. One only has to consider the impact on food markets when scandals emerge, to demonstrate the importance of food safety.
In 2003, avian influenza, often referred to as bird flu, became a global pandemic, spanning from Asia to Europe and Africa. This resulted in widespread slaughter of poultry, wild and domestic, millions of cases of infection in poultry along with human infection and occurrences of human fatalities.
This scare resulted in the reduction of poultry consumption by 29% in 2004 and with recent cases hitting headlines worldwide, the poultry market is facing consumer scrutiny.
Similarly, the horse meat scandal of 2013 resulted in a 43% decrease in the purchase of frozen hamburgers and ready meals in the UK. It also saw Tesco’s market value fall by €360 million. Consumers react rapidly and the economic effect on markets can be dramatic.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recently released figures showing that campylobacter is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK, with more than a quarter of a million people being affected each year.
These figures are alarming and helped form the FSA’s latest campaign ‘The Chicken Challenge’ launched over Food Safety Week.
This campaign appeals to the complete food chain, from manufacturing to consumer aimed at reducing the instances of campylobacter by half in 2015.
Another big area of concern is the presence of drug residues in food and international regulators are continuously introducing new standards in order to protect consumer health. A key factor in this effort is the rising problem of antibiotic resistance.
Evolving microbes adapt and survive in the face of current treatments, and inappropriate use of antibiotics in food production is officially recognised by the World Health Organisation as one the main drivers of this global challenge.
Due to increasing food safety regulations, consumer opinion and retailer pressure, food industries have had to implement greater testing measures, which ensure that food products are suitable for human consumption.
The EU directive 96/23/EC dictates that member states should test various food matrices, including meat, fish, eggs, honey and milk for drug residues.
As countries globally have surveillance programmes for import and export of food, the industry monitors levels of residues to ensure no drug is above the acceptable maximum residue limits or present at all in the case of those drugs that are completely banned.
The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue Seven was published at the start of 2015, looking to promote greater transparency and traceability in the supply chain.
One challenge facing meat processors is retrieving enough information from suppliers and their processes in order to meet auditing expectations.
More companies recognise the need to invest in modern systems to meet these demands, one key element is common in the solutions they seek, which is multiplexing.
Multiplexing gives food producers the ability to test for multiple analytes from a single sample. Putting this into perspective, one array Randox offers is the growth promoter multiple matrix screen (EV3526), which screens tissue for nine antibiotics.
Using ELISA would require nine different kits and nine sample preparations incurring a total time of 18 hours in order to receive the same test results gained from the revolutionary biochip array technology in seven hours.
With biochip array technology analysed on the evidence investigator, this unique multi-analyte testing platform will reduce labour costs, increase throughput and overall productivity.
Detecting up to 22 analytes from a single sample in less than two hours and with less than 5% false positives and no false negatives, food producers can have confidence in results.
The consumer market can have an increased assurance that food purchased from using Randox food suppliers is acceptable for consumption.
Leading reference institutions, such as USDA, have validated biochip array technology as a recognised method for screening drug residues.
The technology is currently used by some of the world’s largest private livestock processors and government testing sites.
Randox are at the forefront of this safety revolution striving to increase global consumer confidence by improving food security.
With the drive to tackle antibiotic resistance seeing regulations strengthened worldwide, it is becoming increasingly clear that food companies will need to invest in technology to keep pace.