Implications for quality control in food manufacturing

South Africa gears up for the introduction of SA Regulatory food draft labelling R2986 in 2025, signalling major shifts in the food industry. Labotec, Buchi Switzerland’s local suppliers, stress the need for manufacturers to uphold quality and profitability amid these impending changes.

Buchi K – 365 Distillation Unit for protein and urea determination

The long – awaited SA Regulatory food draft labelling R2986 is pending and looks set to take effect in 2025. The new draft includes a mandatory front warning on pre-packaged food with high levels of sugar, salt (sodium), saturated fat and artificial sweeteners. This is in reaction to the high number of pre-packaged unhealthy foods on South African supermarket shelves, and the associated spiralling obesity, and Non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as cancers, gut, and heart issues. Although implementing these policies will not resolve the obesity and NCD crisis in the country, they will be an additional step in the fight, and hopefully, inspire healthier food choices. With this said, relevant analytes need to be measured throughout the food & beverage production process to improve quality and profitability.

Overview of the food manufacturing process 

According to Labotec, the food and beverage manufacturing process consists of five common steps: receipt of goods, incoming goods inspection, production, quality control and finally logistics and distribution. Along this process chain, the quality of raw materials, intermediates and final products must be assessed at regular intervals and analysed for relevant parameters. Products can be monitored either off-line, where samples are pulled from the process and analysed in a lab, on-line with Near-infrared (NIR), or at-line where samples can be tested next to the production line. Both on-line and at-line methods provide real-time results and hence support the optimisation and steering of the production processes on the go. 

Buchi ProxiMate NIR, used for fast simultaneous screening of several parameters. The down view is fully FDA compliant.

Quality control of incoming goods / raw materials

During the initial stage of food processing, it is important to obtain efficient and immediate analysis of incoming goods. Real-time quality control leads to quick, clear and well-informed decisions to prevent non-conformance of the produced goods. This avoids unnecessary rework and saves time, storage, and resources. One of the most relevant factors for the incoming goods inspection is time. The waiting time for the results of the inspection needs to be lowered to a minimum. The quality of incoming goods directly influences manufacturing processes, quality of the final goods and often, the purchase price. To avoid questioning of data validity, reference methods such as the Kjeldahl method for protein determination and Soxhlet extraction for fat analysis are often needed. Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy is a technique used for fast, simultaneous screening of several parameters, including moisture, fat and protein. NIR is a complementary technique to the reference methods. 

Quality control of intermediate products

Quality control of intermediates during food processing is necessary to make timely process adjustments and avoid product reworking. Seamless and effective production process monitoring and control assure that: · Specifications are met · Optimal manufacturing efficiency is attained · Any waste of labour, materials, machines and tools is prevented to avoid out-of-spec products, solutions with accurate and reproducible measurements, high throughput, and real-time monitoring are necessary. 

Quality control of final products

In the last step of the quality control program, final goods are analysed and released before being shipped to food retailers and consumers. The final good is tested for conformity with its specification, the legal requirements, and its compliance with food labelling. Depending on regulatory requirements, consumer needs, type of food and food product, a sampling plan is established that outlines the sampling scheme, parameters to determine and sample size. The final goods inspection process starts with the sampling and sample collection and ends with product release or embargo. It is the responsibility of the food producer to apply validated analytical methods to ensure the quality of final products. For the labelling of the food, the applied methods must be compliant with local and international standards, such as ISO, EN, AOAC and others. 


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