What is the Food Testing Method Modernization Movement?

Guest Author: David Kennedy

Chromatography –Whether gas, liquid, or some other variation – is an analytical tool whose primary purpose is to separate one chemical species from another, i.e., to “speciate”. Food is a complex mixture of hundreds, if not thousands, of chemical compounds, so the potential ability to isolate the compound of interest from the mixture is the core of method specificity. As the science of chromatography has advanced, the ability to speciate has become ever more powerful.

An obvious advancement is the powerful instrumentation of HPLC and UHPLC . But it is also apparent in that many more versatile chromatographic columns have been introduced in recent years. With what started with the traditional C-18 phase, new phase chemistries, such as biphenyl and pentafluorophenyl, have become commercially available which have magnified the ability of HPLC instruments to separate complex mixtures. By exploiting subtle differences in molecular polarity, hydrogen bonding ability, chirality, and other molecular properties these new phases are increasing in the ability to separate even closely related isomeric species. Equally important to the instrumentation of HPLC have been the advancements in particle morphology, such as core-shell technology. By creating higher column efficiency, these morphological improvements have enabled even more complete and rapid separations.

The Importance of Chromatography to the Future of Food Testing Modernization Methods.

As the field of chromatography continues to rapidly advance, the ability to speciate will inevitably increase. This will eventually lead to the ability to develop new analytical methods with improved “specificity”. This speciation phenomenon explains why chromatography is at the very center of the current drive to modernize food testing methods. It also explains why new “scientifically valid” methods that will satisfy Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Global Regulatory requirements are likely to be based upon chromatography.

Therefore, by virtue of its great power of speciation, chromatography is front and center in the drive by global communities to modernize food testing methods. However, by itself, the advancement of chromatographic science merely establishes the potential for improved food testing methods to emerge. It doesn’t explain where these improvements come from and how the regulated community can benefit. So, where are these new, improved methods coming from?

Who are the Major Players for Food Modernization Regulations?

There is not a single source as you might expect, but a highly diverse collection of organizations that are engaged in this endeavor. This activity covers the range of public and private institutions and organizations and has an international scope. This phenomenon is best described as the broadly-based movement—The Food Testing Modernization Movement.

FDA Center for food and safety FSMA

There are many active areas of food testing method modernization in the United States. Key among them is the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), which operate several advanced research laboratories around the country. The consensus standard setting organizations, such as AOAC International and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), are equally important because they bring industrial and academic parties together to work on common method needs. The individual food companies and instrumentation companies are not to be forgotten either. Companies such as Phenomenex and SCIEX pursue food method modernization in response to the new requirements that are being created by FSMA implementation.

As you survey the current ferment of method development activity, some interesting features emerge that testify to the growing importance of chromatography in food testing and to the rapid advancement of the field. Of the new analytical methods recently published in the AOAC International Official Methods of Analysis, nearly 70% are based upon either HPLC or GC.

Many of these “new” chromatographic methods are updates of older chromatographic methods which have been made possible by the advancement in technology.  These trends are even more pronounced in the actions of USP who have recently embarked upon a 5-year method modernization program. USP intends to convert many old colorimetric methods to modern chromatographic methods and update scores of older chromatographic methods to current technology standards. The fact that some of these “older” chromatographic methods were only developed within the last 10 years is a testament to the rapid scientific advancement of the field of chromatography.

To find more chromatographic methods for Pesticide Residues, Veterinary Drugs, Mycotoxins, Dietary Supplements, Fatty Acids, Sugars, and more . Download your copy of our Food Testing Applications Guide.

About David C. Kennedy, Ph.D.

David C. Kennedy is a Phenomenex Business Development Manager.
He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in chemistry and a PhD degree in analytical chemistry. His professional career has spanned over 45 years with a focus on food safety and environmental monitoring. He has had sequential assignments in industrial R&D, contract testing laboratories, and in the manufacture of analytical instrument and consumables.

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