ENHANCE DETECTION PROGRAMS
Most leading companies already use a number of sophisticated testing methods for detecting common day-to-day, known-quality and safety concerns. Yet due to the inherent variability within natural raw materials, it is difficult to test for every unknown threat. Verifying the authenticity of an ingredient, rather than verifying the absence of every possible adulterant, provides the best way to detect adulteration.
At this time, companies are challenged in the area of authentication testing due to the variability in farming conditions and the limited availability of suitable ingredient reference standards. Given these challenges, the following are ways to improve existing detection programs:
Determine where testing occurs: Ingredients should be tested as close to the original source as possible, since ingredient adulterants are easier to detect before an ingredient has been diluted or combined with other ingredients. Testing ingredients prior to receipt can also prevent contamination within a company’s own supply chain.
Establish how often testing is performed: A testing frequency schedule should be executed based on the risk of adulteration for each ingredient and supplier. The higher the risk, the more random the testing should be.
Define ingredient standards: When possible, define specific ingredient standards and require supply chain partners to also conduct necessary testing. This can help reduce the incentive for suppliers to compromise ingredient quality.
Identify testing methods used: Given the volume of ingredients and desire to maintain product affordability for customers, companies can consider both inexpensive testing methods—such as simple microscopy and other routine methods that test for viscosity, coloration changes, solubility levels, and temperature reactions—and more advanced analytical technologies. The advanced tests include infrared and mass spectrometry, chromatography and other scientific methods. Employing a full range of tests will provide an extra layer of protection.
EMPLOY COMPREHENSIVE DETERRENCE STRATEGIES
Many companies have implemented a variety of deterrence programs because, as the melamine incident so aptly highlights, the industry currently has an opportunity to leverage and optimize technologies to detect the endless possibilities of unknown adulterants. Yet testing alone for adulteration is ineffective due to the enormous costs associated with testing for all known and unknown contaminants.
The best way a company can protect its consumers and brands is to apply a comprehensive set of deterrence strategies to prevent adulteration before it enters the supply chain. For example, most manufacturers have strategies in place to manage complexity within their supply chains, including streamlining product quality and safety and reducing costs.
They also already enforce the highest manufacturing standards using tools such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and accredited third-party certification schemes like the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Safe Quality Food (SQF), Dutch HACCP and International Food Safety (IFS). These tools help reduce the risk of an issue and provide added security within the supply chain. That said, there are additional strategies that can enhance existing deterrence programs. They include:
Develop appropriate ingredient specifications: Procuring safe and quality raw ingredients requires working with suppliers to develop adequate ingredient specifications. Industry leaders do not just accept standard supplier ingredient specifications; rather they take the time to define the highest quality material specifications. For newer and niche ingredients, it is also important to develop monographs, reference materials and methodologies that maintain the potential substitutes or adulterations to a product.