Food insecurity is a problem across the entire world, but remedying that lack of food requires more than simply sending a package in the mail.
A high percentage of food spoils because of the length of time needed for shipments to reach those in need. To combat this, manufacurers and ingredient suppliers alike must work to extend shelf life without negatively affecting the quality of their products.
Food manufacturers are playing a vital role in fighting food insecurity
By adapting their current manufacturing practices to incorporate longer shelf life demands while maintaining high quality products that consumers enjoy, food manufacturers are becoming better able to create foods that can withstand the rigors of “shipping and handling.” Some of the efforts food manufacturers are making include having more stringent protocols for making goods, as well as increasing the number and intensity of quality checks for final products. One of the key components that requires control is water. If products have too much moisture then there is an increased risk for molding and spoilage. If too little water is present then the product may be brittle and have an unsuitable taste.
Traditional loss on drying (LOD) is accurate but time consuming
The Association of Agricultural Chemists (AOAC) has been publishing quality testing methods in food products since 1912. These methods for moisture determination currently utilize loss‐on‐drying (LOD) technology and often require the use convection ovens and/or vacuum ovens. While the oven method is considered accurate and is relatively easy to perform, LOD analysis can suffer from low repeatability if it is not performed the same way every time – which is difficult to ensure when there are several people running the tests. Another downside of oven loss on drying testing is the length of time required for analysis. Testing times are generally an hour or longer, which can lead to slower production rates. These methods also do not allow for dynamic in‐test metrics that help provide a complete profile of the sample as it is being examined, allowing manufacturers to make adjustments during processing that would help maximize production.
Computrac® offers a faster, more repeatable and more user friendly LOD instrument
Computrac rapid loss on drying instruments operate using the same principle as traditional oven methods, but include advancements that eliminate a number of the downsides that plague the standard method. A small amount of material is placed onto a pan sitting on a balance. Once the correct amount of material is on the pan, the user simply shuts the lid and follows the onscreen prompts to start the test. The instrument then heats up to a specified temperature and the water is evolved off of the sample. Multiple criteria can be used to end the test, but tests are most commonly ended when the change in mass is determined to be negligible. Real time graphs of moisture content can be viewed while the test is taking place, and test times average 5 to 7 minutes depending on the type and amount of food product being tested.
The Computrac® MAX® 4000XL Rapid Loss on Drying Moisture and Solids Analyzer is sensitive enough to detect moisture loss at parts per million levels and rugged enough to move out of the lab and onto the production floor. It is easy to operate and delivers fast, accurate and repeatable results. It is also user friendly with on screen prompts guiding users though each step in the testing process. Furthermore, Arizona Instrument LLC supports its customers with free parameter development for the lifetime of the instrument.
Comparative testing was done using a Computrac® MAX® 4000XL and a Vacuum Oven
Comparative testing was conducted for various products using the Computrac® Loss‐On‐Drying line of instruments, and a vacuum oven with a procedure similar to AOAC method 925_09. The vacuum oven was set to 70°C and at full vacuum. The Computrac® testing used individual parameters stored in the instrument under the names from the table. The samples tested were prepackaged foods that have a 6 year shelf life on the package. Both testing methods used 4g of sample and were tested.
Rapid loss on drying instruments provide results faster and with higher repeatability than traditional LOD methods
For testing shelf stable food products, rapid loss‐on‐drying instrumentation has proven to provide a more desirable method of moisture measurement when compared to traditional loss‐on‐drying techniques. It addresses the drawbacks associated with conventional loss‐on‐drying while maintaining the ease of use application. The reduction in test times increases manufacturing efficiency while simultaneously reducing energy costs. Additionally, this instrumentation is able to provide real time moisture measurements to help users optimize moisture measurement methods. These reductions and savings can be used to deploy food to those in need more quickly, and reach more people that presently have poor food security.