Food Testing is one of the most important tools in the modern food production and manufacturing industry. Since every food we buy from the aisle of a supermarket comes from a chain of different providers, starting with a source, supplier, manufacturer, processor, packager, food testing, wholesaler, retailer, etc., the chances of food getting contaminated or having more than multiple levels of contact is unavoidable. Each process involves the treatment of the food, multiple contacts and handling of food, and the preservatives and methods that each facility uses to keep the food clean and hygienic may actually add to the level of contamination of the food.
When there are so many levels involved in creating what you see in a packet at your local supermarket, there is bound to be the presence of artificial preservatives, colors, chemicals, toxic pathogens and contaminants from various surfaces that the food was in contact with, despite being packed in a sealed cover. This is where food testing comes into play. Food Testing helps in ascertaining the nutritional value, hygiene and credibility of the food product.
Why do we need food testing?
Food Testing is crucial to determine the quality of the food. A Food testing lab undertakes the essential guidelines set by the various food accreditation boards and helps the manufacturer and the consumer to know the real value and nutrition of the food before it can be consumed. Some of the key points on why food testing needs to be done is mentioned below:
- To ascertain quality
One of the most important aspects of food testing is to make sure the given food sample is of the highest possible quality and is fit for consumption by any group of people, such as kids, adults, pregnant women, those who have had major surgeries, those with chronic diseases and the elderly, unless otherwise notified on the food product itself. This means that the lab has to make sure that the food is free from any life-threatening chemicals or contaminants that could cause major inconvenience to the consumer.
Most food testing labs adhere to protocols and standards for food quality set by various recognized boards such as FSSA, FSSAI, ISO, AGAP, HACCP, EU, BSI, AGMARK, etc. The labs, therefore, conform to the guidelines of these boards before they test the quality of the product.
- To Analyze Nutritional Value
It has been mandatory by law to list out the nutritional information on the carton or the packaging of the food product. Therefore all manufacturers of packaged food products such as groceries, condiments, spices, packaged foods, snacks and other foods have to necessarily list out the nutritional information, which will be verified by the food testing labs.
The manufacturer has norms based on the food type to list out essential information such as the Energy per gm, calorie per gm, fat, sugar, Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids, Protein, Calcium, Magnesium, and other important elements that need to be mentioned in their accurate composition. This information is then verified by the lab as they break down the food sample and analyze the sample for the various constituents and the composition. This helps the manufacturer brand their product as “Health Conscious” or “Calorie Conscious” by branding it Low fat, Low calorie or Low sugar or even Sugar-Free product.
- To ascertain the claims by the manufacturer.
The manufacturer may claim that the usage of such a product would give the consumer so many different kinds of benefits. Every brand and product we see around us has some of the other claims seeking to find the potential customer. But when it comes to food products, the claims need to be verified by the testing labs.
If the manufacturer claims the continued usage of the product helps improve energy levels, muscle strength, brainpower, nutrition, bone health, improve weight gain or help weight loss, all of these claims would be verified by the testing labs. The product is then certified based on the results. This helps the manufacturer to gain a competitive edge by getting his product certified by a lab under rigorous testing proving the results and the product’s efficacy.
- To Test for Shelf Life
The expiration date and shelf life of every packaged food product are quite important. Consuming expired products can cause mild to severe outcomes, and therefore all consumers are always advised to choose the products only after careful evaluation of their expiration date. A testing lab can verify and certify the shelf life of the product and ascertain the expiration date beyond which the product should not be consumed.