USP Food Reference Materials and the FCC: A Service to the Food and Analytical Community
From FCC e-Newsletter (Summer 2009, Vol. 2, Issue 1)
One of the most critical factors that determine the quality and safety of the final food product is the absence of intentional or unintentional adulterants. Food manufacturers, and test laboratory and supply chain managers, among others, are frequently faced with questions regarding the purity and authenticity of a food ingredient. Reliable information about purity and authenticity as it relates to food quality and safety is needed to qualify a new batch of material or a new supplier, to perform ongoing quality control and routine checks, to troubleshoot problems, and to demonstrate compliance with quality management systems. Therefore, food ingredients are repeatedly tested and verified for purity and authenticity to identify that the food ingredient has not been adulterated throughout the whole supply chain. The impact of the absence or failure of such test procedures and quality controls has been highlighted by adverse and lethal health consequences for the consumer, t! he financial impact to the industry, and the overall loss of trust in the safety and wholesomeness of food products, such as that caused by the recent adulteration of dairy products with melamine in China.
Various tools are available to industry to safeguard the consumer from adulterated products, one of which is the use of food ingredients that are demonstrably authentic and of food-grade purity. To facilitate this task, the FCC contains numerous, internationally accepted monographs for food ingredients, providing not only procedures to determine the authenticity of a food ingredient but also the corresponding reference material. The combination of a monograph laying out analytical criteria regarding the authenticity and purity of a food ingredient and a physical sample in the form of reference material that can be used to verify the specifications provide a very powerful tool to the food and analytical communities.
The combination of reference materials and FCC monographs assist the food industry and analytical community in a multitude of ways:
- Increased safety of food ingredients
Stringent identity criteria in the monograph together with an actual sample of the food ingredient help food manufacturers to identify any potential adulteration of a food ingredient and thus safeguard their products and the consumer. The analytical results of reference materials will allow side-by-side comparison of this authentic ingredient and any unknown ingredient to confirm its identity and aid in excluding the presence of adulterating agents.
- Protection of the identity of food ingredients
Food ingredient producers that sponsor the development of a monograph and reference materials will enjoy additional protection of the authenticity of their product by always having an authentic sample publicly available that will allow any prospective or current customer to evaluate the material for purity and authenticity, thereby increasing the trust in and safety of a food ingredient that is supported in such an open and transparent way.
- Enhanced reliability of analytical test results
Test laboratories frequently use reference materials to calibrate analytical methods or as a quality control sample, increasing the reliability of an analytical measurement and aiding the quality control measures of the test laboratory. Both uses will increase the reliability of analytical test procedures, aid in quality audits, and generally enhance the level of confidence in the test results.
The stringent identity criteria for food ingredients given in the FCC, together with reference materials for food ingredients provided by USP, provide a powerful tool to ensure the authenticity of food ingredients; this will help increase the safety and reliability of food as well as the food supply chain in the U.S. and elsewhere by safeguarding the producer and the consumer against intentional or unintentional adulteration.