Q&A: Responding to Food Safety

November 25, 2010

LCGC Europe eNews

Gerry Broski, food safety marketing director for Thermo Fisher Scientific speaks about two new analytical screening methods that have recently been developed at the company's food safety response centre.

Gerry Broski, food safety marketing director for Thermo Fisher Scientific spoke to Janet Kelsey, electronic editor,

LCGC Europe

about two new analytical screening methods that have recently been developed by the company's food safety response centre in Dreieich, Germany.

1. Can you explain what the two new analytical screening methods are that have recently been developed at Thermo Fisher’s food safety response centre in Dreieich, Germany?

Broski: Our food safety response centre developed two new rapid and reliable GC–MS/MS methods in response to the US Gulf Coast oil spill. The development of these new methods coupled with Thermo Fisher’s scale and depth of capability enables the detection of petroleum contamination in oysters and fish, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and aliphatic hydrocarbons. In comparison to older available methods, the new methods employ updated technologies, which significantly reduce the overall time of analysis and the amount of solvent used.

2. How were the methods developed?

Broski:Initially, we used a defined set of criteria to determine whether to activate the food safety response centre. Once activated, scientists working in the centre began working on analysing the oil samples collected from the Gulf region to develop step-by-step testing procedures. The centre contains a complete wet lab for sample preparation and a fully equipped instrumentation lab for analysis.

3. How quickly can these methods be implemented once a food contamination crisis has occurred?

Broski:A fully equipped laboratory with the appropriate chemicals, tools and instrumentation could begin testing using the new methods almost immediately. Each method is fully documented and includes a complete list of instruments, reagents and consumables necessary to achieve rapid and reliable results each time the test methods are used. Sample preparation is a critical part of the method and this is clearly explained. Our commercial channel is prepared to support deployment in the field. We also held a web-based presentation on the methods that were effective in informing customers and prospects of the value in using the new method. This presentation is available on our website www.thermoscientific.com/fsrc

4. What standards do these methods conform to?

Broski:The methods developed by Thermo Fisher were single-lab validated by the food safety response centre so that they could be publicly available without delay. Multi-lab validation of methods takes a much longer period of time and time was of the essence in this situation. Being able to distribute these new methods as quickly as possible may reduce the risk to public health.

5. Why have food safety issues escalated in recent times creating a need for dedicated response centres?

Broski:Global communications during a crisis, increased media attention to the quality of food and the growing complexity of the food chain contribute to the increased demand for rapid and reliable methods of testing contaminated food. When a crisis occurs, the media report on it immediately and the public demand to know what the government or industry response will be. Foods and ingredients in food products are sourced globally and subject to the risks associated with handling, shipping, packaging and storage. In addition, many food items may be consumed a significant distance from a known point of origin. There is a greater risk for foods to become contaminated during each stage in the process but the complexity of the supply chain poses an even greater challenge in identifying a potential source of contamination. There is also the issue of deliberate contamination for profit, otherwise known as economic adulteration. Food producers have the added burden of substantiating not only their ingredients and processing operations, but that of their suppliers, wholesalers and distributors. One of the most well-documented cases is the presence of melamine in milk that demonstrated to the world as a whole the tragic consequences of deliberate contamination. Overall, the complexity of the supply chain has created a system that requires diligence and attention to detail that is unprecedented, and the role of regulators and inspectors, producers and consumers cannot be overlooked. A dedicated resource such as the food safety response centre is a necessity in an industry that relies on time-to-market as an indication of freshness and quality. Enabling our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer is a responsibility that we take seriously.

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