Sourcing ingredients from new suppliers – are you getting what you paid for?
By Shantelle Dandy - 26 October 2020
One of the many effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been the disruption to
the supply and availability of ingredients for the food industry. With countries around the world at
various stages of lockdown, manufacturers have had to overcome these challenges while trying to keep prices stable.
Same ingredients, new suppliers
Although supply chains may be returning to normal, many economies have now entered a recession. As profit margins are squeezed and markets become more competitive, food manufacturers may look to other suppliers. For the UK, the departure from the EU means these new suppliers may now be further afield and from previously unfamiliar sources.
Acquiring ingredients from a new supplier comes with the uncertainty of not knowing that what you have
paid for is what you are getting. Similarly, changes in an existing product’s performance or consistency
following a change of ingredient supplier can raise similar concerns. To save on costs, suppliers may
look to bulk out ingredients with a cheaper alternative, compromising the integrity of the manufacturer’s
If this is a concern of yours, how can you begin to investigate?
Small scale screening with microscopes
Small scale screening is the process of determining the presence of foreign or extraneous matter in a given food material with high powered microscopes.
A combination of stereo light microscopy and compound microscopy can be used to identify microscopic
structures in detail. This, in turn, can provide valuable information which may indicate that an
ingredient has been adulterated, bulked out with another component or contaminated.
How is small scale screening performed?
Small scale screening is performed on samples of a given food material. It can be applied to a wide
variety of sample types, including:
- tea blends which may contain small particles of foreign matter, such as fibres (synthetic or natural)
as well as extraneous matter, such as species waste (e.g. faeces or insect parts) or seeds
- spices such as coriander or cumin which can be bulked out with other, cheaper ingredients
- chickpea flour bulked out with potato starch
- fish fillets which may show the presence of nematodes, and
- white pepper to check for the presence of black pepper.
Small scale screening helps you begin your investigation into whether your
product may have been bulked out with other ingredients. But what if you’re looking for a non-food
contaminant such as metal or glass?
X-ray microanalysis (using scanning electron microscopy) and Fourier-transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy
capabilities are options. They allow us to attempt further identification of any foreign,
non-food contaminants such as fibres (synthetic and natural), metal, plastic, glass and more. How do they work? X-ray microanalysis uses a focused beam of electrons to produce X-rays which are diagnostic of the elemental composition of a sample. FT-IR spectroscopy, however, uses a focused infrared beam to determine the chemical composition of a sample. These analytical tools can also be used in non-food products.
Take a look at these two videos which cover FT-IR
spectroscopy and foreign body
find out more about how we analyse your samples.
How can we help?
Small scale screening is just one of the ways Campden BRI can assist you in identifying the presence of contaminants in your products. If you have a sample which you would like us to investigate or if you would like to find out more about our small scale screening service, please get in touch. We would love to chat to you.