The importance of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts as part of a healthy diet is recognised worldwide. This, together with the increased consumer demand for variety and availability of non-seasonal produce, has led to an increased potential for food safety problems.
Raw materials such as fresh fruit and vegetables must be processed as soon as possible (between 4-48 hours) to prevent spoilage. Additionally, due to the risk of faecal contamination, producers must ensure that irrigation water used for fresh produce contains no detectable level of human pathogens and that grazing animals and feedlots are not present on or next to production land.
Neogen® works in partnership with the fresh produce industry to provide testing solutions and services that can assist in production planning, management of quality assurance and the overall safety of products.
In some countries, fresh fruit and vegetables can be subjected to adulteration in order to enhance their appearance. For example, bananas and mangos have been known to be exposed to carbide, a compound used to ripen fruit artificially. In recent years, almond powder has been known to be replaced with less expensive peanut powder, posing serious adulteration and allergen risks to consumers with food allergies. Neogen offers a variety of on-site and laboratory testing services to identify if a product has been adulterated with chemicals or other foods including a variety of nuts and treenuts.
It is required that all major allergens be declared on the ingredients list of pre-packaged foods. For example, fruits such as kiwi pose an allergy risk for many and are now largely used in jam, smoothies, fruit yogurts and desserts. In addition, major components such as textured vegetable protein from soy must be identified along with multiple nuts and treenuts, thus making nut allergy testing very important. Neogen’s food allergen test kits can detect target allergens in ingredients, liquids, clean-in-place rinses, finished foods and on environmental surfaces. These tests can help ensure the safety of your products at every step in the production process.
Cleanliness of all work surfaces and product equipment is very important for quality assurance. Fruit and vegetable growers, packers and processors can verify their hygiene standard operating procedures (SOPs) using Neogen’s AccuPoint® Advanced Hygiene Verification System. AccuPoint Advanced is the first hygiene verification system to be approved by the AOAC Research Institute and is a handheld device that accurately detects ATP from surfaces and rinse water samples. A total of three different samplers are available, depending on the application, for surface testing, rinse water testing, and narrow openings.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are subject to several issues including rapid deterioration that can support the growth of large populations of microorganisms. Unlike processed foods, there is no kill step, thus increasing the chances of contamination. For example, fruit and vegetables grown in soil around farm and wild animals, birds and fowl may be subject to faecal contamination as well as contamination from unclean water used when washing produce. For this reason, leafy greens, which are grown and exported in large volume, are classed as highest priority in terms of testing for foodborne pathogens. Neogen offers the widest available variety of rapid and traditional convenient test solutions for a variety of sample types and can assist in production environments of all sizes.
While the main food source for mycotoxins entering the food chain is cereals, other food groups such as fruits and nuts can potentially be contaminated as well. Patulin, a mycotoxin produced by a variety of moulds, can be found in soft red fruits including tomatoes, when the fruit has not been stored correctly. Ochratoxin A is a concern for grapes and dried fruit within Europe as red wines produced from these grapes have shown to have high levels of the toxin. To help combat the issue of mycotoxins, Neogen offers a complete range of on-site mycotoxin testing for aflatoxin, aflatoxin M1, deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisin, ochratoxin, T-2/HT-2 and zearalenone.