The global seafood industry has expanded due to the advancements in high-seas fishing vessels, improvements in food processing and storage, and the establishment of fishing industries in developing countries. The consequences of this expansion include an expanded market and variety of species available to the consumer as well as greater demand by the consumer. This greater demand has brought on expansion of illegal practices and fraud. Stringent laws and regulations exist for seafood products but in practice, these are difficult to enforce. The average consumer does not have the ability to visually determine if the seafood they are buying is authentic. Further, processing of seafood products often requires the removal of significant morphological characteristics, making it difficult for even experts to make a visual determination of authenticity. Wet chemistry methods do exist for determining the chemical and physical properties of seafood but they are expensive and time-consuming to implement. Spoilage and determination of optimal shelf life for both quality and safety are also of paramount importance in the seafood industry, especially considering the time it can take from catching the product to selling it on the shelf. Deterioration of fish muscle due to degradation of lipids is one parameter that needs to be monitored for quality assurance. One potential analytical tool to replace wet chemistry to detect seafood fraud and adulteration, as well as measure quality, is NIR spectroscopy.
Process Analytical Technology (PAT) & On-Line Measurements
Process Analytical Technology is a framework for innovative process manufacturing and quality assurance. Critical points and parameters during manufacturing of a product are defined and the process is designed in a way that such points and parameters can be measured using analytical tools and instruments for real-time process feedback and control. Such instruments must be able to measure on-line and in a non-invasive manner. Many vendors have developed instruments that are able to measure multiple points in a process with a single instrument, usually using optical fibers and probes. PAT has become an important part of pharmaceutical manufacturing and is beginning to acquire a hold in the food & beverage industry. One such analytical tool with great potential for use in PAT is NIR Spectroscopy.
There are significant challenges to implementing PAT in a beverage manufacturing environment. NIR spectroscopy has been proven as a useful tool for measuring parameters of interest in edible oils measurement. Vendors are coming up with new and innovative ways to make on-line measurements a feasible solution for companies. Advances such as improved fiber-optics, in-situ sampling, a transition to integrated automation, improved data management systems, and communication systems in the Internet and Cloud age have all contributed to implementing PAT. The beverage and food industries also present particular challenges due to natural product variability. In the case of pharmaceuticals and chemicals, the manufacturing process is usually conducted in a controlled environment with constituents that rarely show variability in spectral data over time. For foods and particularly agricultural products, there can be marked differences in products due to many factors, such as temperature variability, seasonal variation, differences in soil and nutrients, and different breeds of the same product. Such variability is especially important to account for when performing coffee analysis. Such differences can create variability in spectral data that must be incorporated into calibration models for when calibrating NIR spectrometers and other analytical PAT tools. This is known as making models “robust” and often requires a larger and more incorporative sample set to achieve the desired results.
Calibration studies have been conducted for measuring parameters in non-alcoholic beverages on-line as well as in the laboratory. Results have been good and show that on-line measurements are a feasible tool for edible oils analysis using PAT. Full adoption of PAT in the non-alcoholic beverage industry will require a collaborative effort from process engineers, food scientists, and other contributors to provide the industry with a manufacturing framework for the 21st century.
Process Analytical Technology for the Food Industry -O’Donnell, Fagan, Cullen, et al., Springer, Food Engineering Series (2014)