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Acrylamide Legislation: What’s the panic about and how does the food industry need to react?

With the uncertainty around the new acrylamide legislation coming in to place in April 2018, many companies within the food industry are looking to further understand what is required of them.

 

Acrylamide typically occurs when foods with high starch content such as potatoes, are cooked at high temperatures

 

For those who aren’t aware, Acrylamide is a chemical substance produced by something called the ‘Maillard reaction’, which is when starch is overheated to cause a reaction between amino acids and sugars. It typically occurs when foods with high starch content such as potatoes, root vegetables or bread, crisps, cakes, biscuits and cereals, are cooked at high temperatures during the frying, roasting or baking process. It is important to clarify that acrylamide is not something which has been added to food, it is a natural by-product of cooking processes, and has always been present in these types of foods.

 

 

What are the dangers?

Recent scientific tests have led to acrylamide being classified as a ‘probable carcinogen’. This has prompted scientists to conclude it is advisable humans minimise consumption of this particular chemical, to in turn, reduce cancer potential.

 

How must the food industry react?

Whilst it is not possible to simply remove acrylamide, there are a number of measures which can be taken to reduce the levels. The legislation says that practical measures must be taken to mitigate acrylamide formation in foods. As stated by the Food Standards Agency, from April 2018 Food Business Operators will be expected to:

  • Be aware of acrylamide as a food safety hazard and have a general understanding of how acrylamide is formed in the food they produce
  • Take the necessary steps to mitigate acrylamide formation in the food they produce; adopting the relevant measures as part of their food safety management procedures
  • Undertake representative sampling and analysis where appropriate, to monitor the levels of acrylamide in their products as part of their assessment of the mitigation measures
  • Keep appropriate records of the mitigation measures undertaken, together with sampling plans and results of any testing

For the first of these points, hopefully this article will serve to help improve knowledge around the subject. For those issues remaining, we will now explain how measuring equipment can be used to help. Aside from using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (a complicated and chemically technical process to measure acrylamide itself) there are in fact some ‘quick win’ methods businesses can take to keep presence of acrylamide to a minimum.

When it comes to both food storage and cooking, managing temperature is in fact the main factor for the formation of acrylamide. Firstly, from the cooking side, as mentioned previously, acrylamide levels are increased by excessively elevated temperatures. A particularly high amount is produced when potato and cereal-containing foods are heated above 180°C. Acrylamide formation begins at around 120°C, but increases rapidly at 170-180°C. This needs to be considered by those involved in any type of cooking or even pre-cooking during food processing for example. With these types of products, it is advisable for them to be cooked at a lower temperature than usual, for slightly longer periods if required.

For fried foods in particular, such as French fries, the temperature of the oil needs to be ensured. Unfortunately though, you can’t always rely on fryer thermostats, as these often fail to show an accurate temperature. With an instrument such as the testo 270 Cooking Oil Tester, you can simultaneously measure both the temperature (up to 200°C) and the quality of the oil. Whilst TPM (total polar materials) measurement and acrylamide formation are not directly correlated, this is also very important for being economical with oil costs, and ensuring a consistent quality of product. By adding this as a simple spot check, operators can ensure fried foods are being cooked at the right temperature to keep acrylamide levels at bay, whilst also optimising their oil consumption, saving up to 20%. Documenting this check will also prove handy when it comes to audits, as proof of due diligence regarding the ‘records of the mitigation measures undertaken’ mentioned above.

 

 

With the testo 270 Cooking Oil Tester, you can measure both the temperature (up to 200°C) and the quality of the cooking oil.

 

On the flip side, during storage, one of the main steps recommended by the FSA is not to keep raw potatoes in the fridge, particularly if you intend on cooking them at high temperatures. Doing so is likely to lead to formation of more free sugars in the potatoes (referred to as ‘cold sweetening’) and can increase overall acrylamide levels especially if the potatoes are then fried, roasted or baked. Ideally, potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place at a temperature of 6°C or above. As with the fryer temperature though, once again, for accurate temperature readings, unfortunately you cannot simply rely on thermostats, as these more often than not don’t reflect the true ambient temperature in the room. In this case a temperature monitoring system such as testo Saveris 2 would be the ideal solution, to ensure the temperature in the cold storage room is kept at the optimum level at all times.

 

  The testo Saveris 2 can ensure the temperature in the cold storage room is kept at the optimum level at all times.

 

Like more info?

For more information on the new legislation please visit the Food Standards Agency website.

If you would like further information on testo measurement equipment please visit www.testo.co.uk or call us on 01420 5444 33

 

 

An exclusive Q&A with Foodservice Equipment Journal and Testo’s own Warren Mansfield-Smith

Food safety is imperative for all restaurant chains, but thanks Testo’s range of measurement instruments and paperless quality management solutions, ensuring food safety in restaurants has never been easier. Testo key account manager for food solutions, Warren Mansfield-Smith, is a certified Food Service Professional and has a Level 3 Award in HACCP from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. Warren recently spoke with Foodservice Equipment Journal to give his inside view on why measuring in the restaurant industry matters.

 

What sort of presence does Testo have in the UK today?

We have just celebrated our 60th birthday and continue to grow in the UK, with 2017  another record year both globally and locally. The food sector has long been one of Testo’s key markets, and with innovative new instruments being released every year, the UK foodservice market is continuing to recognise that with the right technology, they can not only reduce operating costs, but also increase efficiency.

 

How would you best summarise your current offering for the foodservice industry?

Testo provide a range of instruments and solutions for the foodservice sector. These include waterproof folding thermometers, wireless temperature monitoring with testo Saveris 2, the highly touted testo 270 cooking oil tester, and the newly released paperless quality management solution in testo Saveris Restaurant. We aim to provide the industry with the tools they need to be safe and legal with high levels of due diligence.

 

Testo provide a range of instruments and solutions for the foodservice sector

 

What sets Testo apart from other suppliers of food safety equipment and how well do you compete on price given that cost management is an issue for operators right now?

Testo is a premium brand and all our instruments are manufactured in accordance within the Guidelines for Uncertainty of Measurement (GUM). This means you can be sure that when we state the accuracy of an instrument, it’s guaranteed. It’s true there are a number of very cheaply manufactured instruments available on the market, however, it’s more than likely Testo products will last significantly longer due to the high quality standards we manufacture to. Ultimately, if operators are keen to reduce ongoing cost, they should look to invest in quality over quantity. Equally we have some innovative solutions which have proven to increase savings in terms of both costs and time.

 

You launched the ‘Testo Saveris Restaurant’ solution this year, which combines intuitive software and precise measurement technology. How significant is this development to your strategy?

After 60 years of growth in instrumentation manufacture, Testo realised the world has changed significantly. Technology has advanced at such an astonishing pace we need to adapt or we’ll not be providing our customers with the products and services they need. Testo Solutions is hugely significant in the history of testo and testo Saveris Restaurant is our first ‘solution’ and aimed at the companies in the food service sector to overcome the challenges they face on a daily basis.

 

What sort of engagement do you have with restaurant chains and multi-site operators – and do you see much discrepancy in the way that these companies individually deal with the food safety issue?

We deal with some of the largest restaurant chains on the planet and yes, there are discrepancies in how organisations manage food safety, some are happy with what they’ve got, while others are aware of the weaknesses of their current processes and are prepared to invest to improve, realising the long term cost benefit.

 

Up until now, quality management in restaurants has involved heaps of paperwork and manual documentation. How quickly will we see that change and what will drive it?

It’s changing rapidly and this is evident by the number of companies offering paperless systems. Operators should be mindful however that not all systems are the same. Testo has 60 years of expertise in measurement technology and offer, what we believe, to be the most comprehensive quality management solution available. Once operators realise how much they can save by reducing time, paper, storage and reporting to name a few, then I’m sure the transition to digital will become even quicker.

 

How can restaurants use modern quality management technology to avoid being the next food scandal?

Testo Saveris Restaurant converts your existing paper based quality checks into a digital format. Checks can be allocated to a particular shift and if not completed, an alert can be sent to the manager for instance. This way the operator knows the relevant checks have been completed and any corrective actions can be dealt with immediately. Temperature checks are automated and manual readings are transferred directly to the user control unit reducing the risk of error either accidentally or deliberately. The integrated digital camera can also be used to capture images as proof.

 

What are the consequences of not keeping accurate records?

Put simply, they could be catastrophic! Probably the most high profile case in the UK was where a woman died after eating Christmas dinner at a pub. It was found that records had been falsified resulting in jail for 2 of the pub employees and a £2million fine for the operator.

 

Chefs tend to look at HACCP as a bit of a necessary evil and investing in solutions for this part of the business is not as exciting as say a shiny new oven or the latest cooking suite. How do you overcome that?

A shiny new oven makes the chefs life easier, they can deliver high quality food, quickly and easily and that’s what we offer with Testo Saveris Restaurant. We make their life easier.

 

What’s the biggest misconception that operators have when it comes to buying equipment for food safety?

That it’s all the same! Just because it takes a temperature or you can connect it to a tablet, doesn’t mean it’s fit for the job. Chefs will pay hundreds of pounds for a set of knives but buy the cheapest thermometer they can find. It’s the old cliché… you get what you pay for.

 

What’s the ‘next big thing’ for the food safety instruments market?

Paperless quality management with systems such as testo Saveris Restaurant

 

Like some more info?

If you would like further information about testo Saveris Restaurant or any of our Food Safety instruments, please visit www.testo.co.uk or call us on 01420 544433

How the food industry is taking advantage of automated monitoring to optimise working procedures and decrease workloads

When it comes to the food industry, no matter which area a company works in, food safety is always a major concern. The sheer scale of end-customer demand, coupled with strict time restraints, puts a huge amount of pressure on the food industry to ensure all produce is carefully monitored and regulated from farm to fork. Practically every point of the process, throughout production, preparation, storage and transport, has potential danger areas regarding spoilage through mismanagement or poor temperature regulation.

Monitoring temperature is a particularly important part of this process. Incorrect climatic conditions can have devastating consequences, and businesses often leave themselves at risk of incurring needless costs should there be a power cut, or system malfunction. This can lead to wasted stock or worse; a legal dispute.

Such costs can be detrimental to both production and reputation (should the tainted stock be distributed) and will ultimately have a negative effect on profit margins.

Within the food industry more and more businesses are opting to use automated temperature monitoring. For certain applications simply using a data logger and noting down readings manually is sufficient, for instance building monitoring where there is no danger of damage to stock and you simply need the records for reference purposes. When dealing with climate sensitive stock though, as is more often than not the case in the food industry, using an alarm fitted system which monitors conditions continuously is fast becoming a necessary requirement. With such a system in place, if there is a problem, you will be notified immediately, so you are able to react straight away, before it is too late. This is particularly useful if you don’t have staff on site 100% time, which let’s face it, most companies don’t the have resource for.

When first introduced, whilst the logic and practicality behind this type of solution is somewhat undeniable, systems were very costly and the quality manager or person responsible for food safety simply couldn’t justify the cost. This has often proved to be the stumbling block for companies looking to move to an automated system, instead sticking with more traditional temperature loggers, and taking manual readings. To an extent this is understandable, “if it’s not broken don’t fix it”, right? Admittedly, in the first instance investment is needed for such a system. In the long run, however, it will likely save the business valuable time and manpower.

For example, if in the current regime a member of staff is required to go around and take checks at numerous locations, this is a needless additional task which could be used for something more productive. And of course, as mentioned previously, the overriding advantage of employing such a system is to act as a contingency measure and protect your operation in the event of a problem or system malfunction. This could end up saving money in the long run, on wasted stock, potential product recalls etc. Another saying comes to mind: “But we’ve always done it that way”. This has been described as the 7 most expensive words for any business; failure to adopt new methodologies can hurt a business in the long run.

 

The above video explains the advantages of an automated temperature monitoring system

What’s more, as technology continues to advance at an astonishing rate, such systems are now becoming available for a fraction of the cost when this type of system first hit the market. Testo’s Saveris 2 for example offers a fully automated temperature monitoring system from under £100 with no additional costs for software. Therefore, it doesn’t cost as much as you’d think to ensure your peace of mind.

 

About testo Food Safety

Testo offer our industry knowledge as well as a wide range of equipment for food safety which will help you meet your quality requirements and give you the reassurance you are storing and cooking your food safely. Our instruments include temperature monitoring systems, data loggers, thermometers, cooking oil testers, PH meters and more.

Whether it is for spot checks or long-term monitoring, from farm to fork, Testo has the right instrument for the job. Want to find out more about testo food safety equipment? Why not visit our website www.testo.co.uk or give us a call on +44 1420 544433 and we’ll be happy to help.

 

3 common bacteria caused by incorrect food temperature control

If you operate within the cold chain, in production, transportation, as a food laboratory, or anywhere where you are responsible for food handling, you need to be in complete control of your business at all times. Even the slightest change in atmosphere can result in harmful (sometimes even deadly) bacteria spreading through your products.

As with all workplace hazards, prevention and preparation are absolutely key. Providing you are aware of the dangers and have sufficient protection methods in place, such as a digital monitoring system, you can ensure safe and effective service.

 

With a temperature monitoring system you can ensure produce is kept at the correct conditions throughout

 

If you decide not to set up measures for temperature control, you run the enormous risk that your products will be exposed to a number of disease-creating bacteria and pathogens. With most forms of bacteria forming through inadequate storing methods, there is no room to take chances.

If you are found to be liable for causing sickness to the general public, the consequences will be severe, both financially and in terms of the business’ reputation. As we saw recently with the tragic case of the Clock and Key Pub in Tristen, even a small-scale lapse can have devastating repercussions for all involved.

 

Here are three of the most common examples caused by temperature monitoring oversights.

 

  1. Salmonella

This is one of the most common bacterial infections, and has become a notorious threat worldwide, so you would think people would have learned their lesson by now. And yet, time and time again, food vendors and preparation facilities throughout the UK and internationally fail to account for it when handling, storing and cooking food.

Salmonella is most commonly present in raw and undercooked eggs, poultry and meat but has also  been found in fruit and vegetables that have become contaminated. Facilities which prepare milk should also be on the lookout as it has been known to gestate in unpasteurised milk.

Because the presence of this bacteria is dependent on how the food or dairy product in question is cooked, the temperature of your working environment needs to be stable and accurate at all times. If not, the disease has more of a chance to form and spread, which could land you in trouble if the contaminated product hits the shelves.

These lessons should be followed even if the laboratory is only handling raw foods, as rapid temperature fluctuations can still impact the integrity of the product.

 

  1. Campylobacter

Some food laboratories specialise in storing foods before they are transported somewhere or analysed. If these facilities cannot guarantee reliable temperature measurement then there is little point in their operation.

Correct storage is one of the most vital parts of food safety. If it is done incorrectly, the risk of contamination rises greatly, and jeopardises the whole business.

This is especially true with poultry and meat, as both are incredibly sensitive to temperature whether they are in storage or being cooked. Both are susceptible to Campylobacter bacteria, which is known to form during storage and causes cases of food poisoning if it is not eliminated in the cooking process.

 

Meat must be kept at the correct temperature at all stages of the storage and preparation process

 

Even in freezing temperatures the bacteria is not always completely eliminated, however, it is a good place to start. Freezers are one of the areas where a temperature monitoring system is most beneficial, as this can alert managers of any unplanned temperature changes, and ‘nip it in the bud’ so to speak, before it becomes a real issue.

 

  1. Listeria

While Campylobacter can survive freezing temperatures, Listeria can withstand the slightly warmer climate of a refrigerator, where most other illness-causing bacteria perish.

Although Listeria doesn’t quite have the range of Campylobacter and Salmonella when causing illness, it does target those who are vulnerable to sickness in general, meaning it still needs to be taken seriously.

Elderly people, pregnant women and young children are at particular risk of catching the disease, as are those who already have a compromised immune system.

Listeria mainly affects ready-to-eat foods that are commonly stored in the refrigerator, a place that people normally associate with food safety. As the appearance of this bacteria is heavily dependant on cooking, storing and reheating temperature, food laboratory managers need to be cautious at all times.

Again, as with all of these bacteria, as long as the appropriate processes are observed and preventive measures are put in place, food laboratories should be able to produce products that are safe and ready for human consumption.

 

About testo Food Safety

Testo offer our industry knowledge as well as a wide range of equipment for food safety which will help you meet your quality requirements and give you the reassurance you are storing and cooking your food safely. Our instruments include temperature monitoring systems, data loggers, thermometers, cooking oil testers, thermal cameras, PH meters and more.

Whether it is for spot checks or long-term monitoring, from farm to fork, Testo has the right instrument for the job. Want to find out more about testo food safety equipment? Why not visit our website www.testo.co.uk or give us a call on +44 1420 544433 and we’ll be happy to help.