“Disruptive” near-infrared technology fights food fraud
26 May 2020 --- Chemometric Brain is a newly launched software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform created to identify food fraud and increase transparency along the global supply chain. The cloud-based software uses near-infrared (NIR) technology to guarantee the traceability, suitability and homogeneity of ingredients and food products. While the powerful technique of using NIR has been around for many years, it was never extensively adapted into the food sector due to its complexity. Chemometric Brain is touted for making the technology more accessible to a wide range of ingredients suppliers.
“Consumers are asking for the composition of what they are eating and industries need to improve their traceability and food safety. This is to decrease risks avoiding food fraud or nonconformities,” Dr Beatriz Carrasco, CTO at Chemometric Brain tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
Food fraud and improving ingredient traceability are long-standing issues in the food, beverage and supplements sector, heightened during increased demand and disruption to the supply chain, as during the outbreak of COVID-19.
Chemometric Brain is a system that identifies and compares the composition of many types of samples, especially in recipes containing multiple ingredients. The technology works with powders, solids, gels and liquids. Some of the most popular categories being analyzed include sports supplements, infant milk and any type of food powder for consumption, such as cacao or coffee.
The data available from NIR spectra (the results of the analysis) could be used in many new applications apart from the initial scope of powder-based food and nutrition. These include honey, olive oil, species, infant milk and medicinal herbs. “Chemometric Brain makes it possible to have a new vision of both ingredients and final recipes. This enhances your knowledge about them, which improves food safety and decreases risks,” says Carrasco.
Standing out from the crowd
The major difference between NIR solutions already available and Chemometric Brain is that this is the only software in the cloud, and it allows a company to consolidate all NIR spectra from multiple devices and multiple equipment manufacturers in one single place.
Once the spectra have been automatically uploaded from the NIR scanner, Chemometric Brain uses a qualitative approach to identify how the “fingerprint” of a sample fits within a standard library previously created for the same product and then highlights any variation from the specific product.
“A finger print library allows a manufacturer to have much better control of raw materials and final products and the ability to trace any food that is in the global supply chain,” notes Carrasco.
The system may be able to increase a company’s food-safety standards and establish a precise and fully replicable quality-control process. This solution can be used to identify raw materials, detect possible changes in suppliers’ processes, ensure the exact mixture composition, better determine the expected product shelf-life or analyze physical-chemical properties, among others.
“The implementation is very modular and rapid as we have many libraries already built,” says Carrasco. Chemometric Brain has hundreds of product libraries available, as a result of more than 12 years of work and research, which makes identification easier and can be rapidly implemented in any food company.
“A global solution”
Dr. Vincent Baeten, Head of the Quality and Authentication of Products Unit at the Walloon Agricultural Research Centre, calls the new technology a global solution in the private sector. This is because it can manage a large number of data coming from different instruments. “We are testing lots of new algorithms at research level and here, the Chemometric Brain brings that into a single tool, thus making that available to everyone,” he says.
Earlier this month, Natural products company NOW made public a series of product tests on Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) products purchased on Amazon, revealing potency far below label claims. The testing was done internally and the company says it aims to inform consumers on potentially fraudulent claims, as well as alert the supplements industry, in order for such products to be identified and withdrawn from circulation.
Last year, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) called on governments to increase resources for controls in order to verify that businesses comply with EU food safety and labeling laws. “National governments are regrettably cutting corners when it comes to checking the vital resources that are our food. Even products prone to causing food poisoning – such as meat, eggs and dairy – are subjected to fewer and fewer controls,” asserted Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC.
By Missy Green
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