Avoiding the pitfalls of nutritional analysis
Pre analysis considerations
Ensuring the correct method of analysis is chosen, to capture an accurate nutritional profile, relies on accounting for the variability of several factors. These can include:
- Homogeneity - the product may have an intrinsic variation in makeup, and this is important to understand if tolerances are to be established. This is most common with primary production and raw ingredients, where adjustment for nutrient variation is more challenging.
- Process - the larger the number of samples taken from production the more representative the data set, as nutritional values may vary throughout a run. This must be weighed up against cost of testing and resources.
- Ingredient - it is important to ensure the sampling process takes seasonal and batch variability of ingredients into account.
For nutritional labelling, the Food Information for Consumers (FIC) Regulation states: The declared values shall, according to the individual case, be average values based on:
- a) the manufacturer’s analysis of the food;
- b) a calculation from the known or actual average values of the ingredient used; or
- c) a calculation from generally established and accepted data.
Despite the fact that nutritional analysis can be based on theoretical values, due to the nature of emerging ingredients, there may not be sufficient established data to calculate a profile; this may make it necessary to conduct nutritional analysis.
Understanding the limitations of a method can help when choosing the correct way to detect the desired nutrients. The limit of detection for a method is also an important factor, as it may affect whether you can detect the nutrient in the product. This is particularly important for micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
Health and nutrition claims
When making a claim on packaging, pre defined levels of the nutrient must be present in the final product. Whilst it is simple to test the product and establish these levels, it would also be prudent to factor in the level of error associated with the method used. This means that if the result is close to the border of whether a claim can be made or not, the developer can have confidence that it will be above the limit each time it is analysed. In order to make a claim the product has to fall above the threshold at all times, in contrast to the FIC nutritional labelling mentioned above.