Food Safety Testing
Food is both a necessity and an art form. Manufacturers and consumers need to be confident in the safety and nutritional information of the products they are making and eating.
Most foodborne illnesses are completely preventable. Rigorous microbiological, environmental, and product testing are part of a good quality control program which can help ensure that the products you bring to the market are free of pathogens and other unwanted bacteria. Northeast Laboratories is a full service microbiology laboratory that can meet a wide variety of testing requirements.
Personal health has never been more important and accurate, reliable nutritional data is a key factor in maintaining a healthy diet. Northeast Laboratories provides a variety of food testing services and can help create nutritional facts panels.
Northeast Laboratories also offers shelf life / shelf stability programs to better ensure the timeline for how long your products remain safe while on the shelves.
Water activity is the amount of water available for use. This is a measurement that does not include water “trapped” in bonds such as proteins or carbohydrates. This directly relates to a product's ability to support the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold, which require the water to survive.
Moisture is a measure of the amount of water within a product. This can also be referred to as water content. This measurement includes water “trapped” in bonds such as proteins or carbohydrates that are unavailable for use.
We can determine the percent of protein a product contains. Protein provides energy for the human body.
We can determine the percent of fat a product contains. There are different types of fat in food. Some fats can help the human body absorb vitamins. Others can improve shelf life of foods.
We can determine the percent of carbohydrates a product contains. Carbohydrates include total sugars, dietary fiber and sugar alcohols. The human body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose(sugar) to store energy.
We can determine the percent of salt a product contains. Salt is approximately 40% sodium. Sodium is an important nutrient for the human body, but it is recommended in small doses.
Nutritional Fact Panels
We can provide nutritional fact panels for food products that we test.
Total Aerobic/Anaerobic Microbial Count
Bacteria are small organisms that can live everywhere in the world. Most bacteria are harmless, but some cause serious illnesses. There are many different ways to group bacteria. One way to classify bacteria is by the terms Aerobic and Anaerobic, which refer to whether the bacteria need oxygen to live. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen so they can live on food exposed to air. Anaerobic bacteria do not require oxygen so they can survive in vacuum packaged or canned foods.
Another way to classify bacteria is by determining what temperatures they can survive in. This is particularly important for food products. Psychrophiles are bacteria that thrive in lower temperatures. Testing for these microorganisms is particularly important since they can grow at room and refrigerated temperatures. Thermophiles on the other hand, thrive at higher temperatures, and are a key contributor to food spoilage.
Our testing methods can quantify the level of all of these microorganisms in a given product or environmental swab.
Total Yeast & Mold Count
Yeast and molds are two groups of microorganisms comprised of many different species. These microorganisms can lead to a variety of different problems including decomposing foods, producing mycotoxins and causing allergic reactions and infections. Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites that are not destroyed during cooking or food processing.
Total Coliform Count
Coliforms are a group of bacteria that are commonly found in the digestive tracts of humans and animals, as well as in the soil and the environment. They are commonly counted in order to determine the level of sanitation. Our coliform testing can also differentiate and enumerate E. coli, a potentially dangerous type of coliform, that may be present in a sample.
Lactic Acid is used for shelf life preservation and is common in fermented products and yogurts. However, it can sometimes have the opposite effect and result in spoilage. These normally useful bacteria can cause undesirable changes to ready-to-eat meats and seafood, dressings and sauces, vegetables and many other processed foods. Lactic acid contributes to food waste and costly recalls.
Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) is a germ that can be found on some people’s skin as well as in about 30% of people’s noses. Staph can cause serious infections that can further lead to sepsis, pneumonia, or death. Staph bacteria are killed by cooking, but the toxins that it produced are not destroyed and will still be able to cause illness. Foods that are not cooked after handling, such as sliced meats, puddings, pastries, and sandwiches, are especially risky if contaminated with Staph. Food contaminated with Staph toxin may not smell bad or look spoiled.
While most species within the Listeria family are non-pathogenic to humans, Listeria monocytogenes is commonly associated with foodborne Listeriosis and can cause illness and death in infected individuals. Those who are immunocompromised, elderly, pregnant, or neonate are particularly at risk. Outbreaks of Listeria infections have been primarily linked to deli meats, hot dogs, dairy products such as soft cheeses and ice cream, and raw fruits and vegetables.
E. coli O157:H7
E. coli is a pathogen commonly found in the gut flora of humans and animals. Although it is usually harmless to humans, a handful of strains have been shown to cause diarrheagenic disease. E. coli O157:H7 is one strain that is pathogenic to humans. It is recognized to cause bloody diarrhea, which can progress to the potentially fatal hemolytic uremic syndrome. Infections are commonly acquired from contaminated food or water sources. Commonly contaminated foods include undercooked ground beef, raw milk, cold sandwiches, lettuce, and unpasteurized apple juice.
Salmonella spp. has two species that contribute to human illness: S. bongori and S. enterica, with the latter causing the greatest public health concern. Salmonella spp. can be found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals. It can also be found within the environment in places such as pond water sediment. Salmonella spp. are transferred via the oral-fecal route or with contact with contaminated water. Common places of contamination are meat, farm-irrigation water (further contaminating crops produced with the water), soil and insects, factory equipment, kitchen surfaces and utensils.