- Determining the microbiological status of foods and detection of pathogenic germs such as Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter
- Verification of the best-before date
- Rapid methods (Vidas) for salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes
- Sensory evaluation
- Conducting follow-up studies to determine or monitor compliance with best before or the use by date
- Implementation of the mandatory microbiological tests according to Regulation (EG) no. 2073/2005 on the microbiological criteria for food
- Microbiological monitoring of incoming goods for plant and animal raw materials and/or semi-finished products
- Microbiological analysis of the cleanliness and disinfection level of equipment and surfaces
- Sampling of drinking water for microbiological analysis
- Microbiological analysis of drinking water in accordance with current potable water regulations
- Verification of the designated commercial classes for fresh and frozen poultry and eggs
- Testing of eggs for their degree of freshness (air chamber height, yolk index, Haugh units
- Challenge testing
According to the Food Information Regulation (FIC), a best-before date (BBD) must be indicated for foods that are marketed, and a use-by date must be indicated for perishable foods. Exceptions to this are listed in appendix X of the FIC.
The best-before date indicates the date until which the food retains at least its specific properties under compliance with the specified storage conditions. While products with an exceeded best-before date can still be consumed, products with a stated use-by date may no longer be consumed after this date.
Establishing the best-before and use-by dates
The determination of the best-before date or the use-by date is the responsibility of the person marketing the product. Various influencing factors, e.g. ingredients, manufacturing process, packaging, must be taken into account. If empirical values or studies on comparable products are already available, these can be used as a basis for determining the best before date. However, it is not always possible to use existing data. In such cases, it is recommended to carry out a storage test to determine the best before/use by date. This test is also suitable for checking an already determined best before date.
In a storage test, the considered food is stored in real time under real conditions until the possible/determined best before date. At previously determined dates, a microbiological, sensory and chemical examination of the samples is carried out for possible changes during storage. This procedure is suitable for foods with a relatively short shelf life.
For foods with a long shelf life, real-time storage is not suitable. For these foods, the “reaction rate-temperature rule” (RGT rule) can be used in a storage experiment to shorten the storage time. When using the RGT rule, it is assumed that a 10 °C increase in storage temperature results in a doubling of the reaction rate. If, for example, a best-before date of 6 months is specified for a product at 20 °C, then storage at 30 °C can allow a statement to be made regarding the best-before date after just 3 months. In this case, the microbiological, sensory and chemical properties of the sample are also examined at different times during the storage period.
Influencing factors on the best-before date
There are many different factors that influence the best-before date of food. These are:
- manufacturing process (e.g. whether the product is frozen, sterilized, canned or dried).
- pH value, aw value, etc.
- storage conditions (temperature, humidity, light, etc.)
The microbiology and sensory experts at bilacon routinely perform best before date analyses. These tests can be carried out in special climatic chambers and analyzed in the laboratory.
Which foods don’t need a best-before date?
According to Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, there are a few foods that don’t need to indicate a best-before date. These are:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (not subjected to any treatment, such as peeling).
- Wine, fortified wine, sparkling wine, flavored wine, or the like
- Alcoholic beverages (alcohol content over 10 percent by volume)
- Baked goods, which are consumed within 24h
- Table salt
- Solid sugar
- Sugar products consisting almost exclusively of sugars with flavorings and/or colorings
- Chewing gum
Eggs belong to microbiologically sensitive products and must be tested regularly to protect the consumer.
Regulation (EC) 589/2008 sets deadlines for the grading, marking and packing of eggs. These serve to ensure the preservation of the degree of freshness and thus protect the consumer. The regulation specifies that these steps must be completed within 10 days of laying at a licensed packing center. For eggs of the class “Extra” this applies within four days. The minimum shelf life date cannot be set more than 28 days after laying.
Eggs can be contaminated with bacteria primarily and secondarily. Primary contamination occurs before eggs are laid, for example, by laying hens infected with salmonella. Secondary contamination takes place after egg laying, so that Salmonella, for example, enters the egg interior through feces on the shell.
To ensure that there are no bacteria in the products, microbiological testing of eggs is performed in our laboratories. These include testing for salmonella, E.coli, Campylobacter and spoilage agents.
Determination of the degree of freshness (determination of the Haugh units)
The Haugh unit (HU) is used to determine the degree of freshness of eggs. This method is used to determine the egg white quality and is based on the relationship between egg weight and the height of the egg white. For this, the egg is first weighed, then broken on a flat glass plate and the egg white height is determined by using a height gauge at a distance of about 1cm from the yolk edge. The Haugh unit can then be calculated from the egg white height and weight.
Determination of the yolk color (raw and cooked)
On the basis of the yolk color, it is possible to make statements about the feeding or possibly the state of health of the laying hens. The yolk color is determined with a yolk color fan.
Determination of the weight class
Eggs are divided into the weight classes S, M, L and XL depending on their weight. For this purpose, the eggs are weighed one by one and the weight must correspond to one of the following weight ranges:
XL: ≥ 73g
L: 63 bis < 73g
M: 53 bis < 63g
S: < 53g
Checking for roll marks
By using UV light, it is checked whether rolling marks are visible on the shell of the eggs. In this way it can be possibly proven whether the eggs originate from cage rearing.
Air chamber height
The height of the air chamber can be used to make conclusions about the freshness of the eggs.
Measurement of eggshell thickness and strength
With this measurement, possible shell defects can be detected.
Complete range of services for eggs
bilacon supports you in all analyses related to your eggs in the course of in-house inspections or inspections ordered by the authorities. This includes:
- Microbiological analyses
Campylobacter (raw eggs)
Total germ count
Yeasts and molds
Pathogenic germs and their toxins
Salmonella in the shell and in the yolk (raw and cooked eggs)
- Residues and contaminants
Dioxins and furans
Veterinary drugs (Chloramphenicol, Florfericol, Thiamphenicol, Sulfonamides, Tetracyclines)
- Chemical-Physical analyses
Colorants in dyed eggs
Minerals and trace elements
- Others parameters
In the past, there were more and more public recalls of food, especially meat and sausage products. The reason for this was a so-called zoonosis, such as the qualitative detection of Listeria monocytogenes. Challenge testing offers effective protection against such contamination.
Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 lays down microbiological criteria for food. These are obligatory for food producers.
According to the regulation, food business operators must set up and regularly implement one or more procedures based on checkpoint analysis (HACCP principles). These procedures must be constantly monitored and verified. The entire manufacturing process must be suitable to inhibit or prevent the spread of pathogenic germs. Thus, in order to meet the strict criteria of the regulation, it is not only the quality of the final product that is considered, but the entire production route.
Challenge tests are used to critically examine the manufacturing process of a product. This is the only way to ensure that the measures taken to protect hygiene during production are sufficient and meet the requirements of Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005.
The equipment of bilacon GmbH is always state of the art. This enables us to guarantee precise and fast analyses at all times.
In microbiology, for example, we work with spiral platers so that processes are automated, simplified and accelerated.