Thursday, December 3, 2020
Continued assurance of the quality and authenticity of food products
In the food chain, the quality and authenticity of products must be guaranteed. There is, however, always a slight chance that low quality food is (unintentionally) delivered by a supplier or that, in certain cases, deliberate food fraud is committed. Today, very comprehensive quality management systems are in place to take different aspects into account. However, we often rely on certificates and agreed specifications and/or just a few not very extensive (specific) tests are carried out on, for example, fraudulent herbs, olive oil, meat and fish.
Stefan Goethaert, who has the final responsibility over the Colruyt Group Quality Department: “Food safety and quality is and remains our highest asset. We already carry out a lot of checks within our own quality department, but we have also looked for a way to efficiently increase the number of quality checks in our production environments, and on products that enter our distribution centres as food products. We have successfully tested this solution with Xpectrum; a solution that is in line with our continuous aim for process innovation.”
How it works: Near Infrared Spectroscopie
Xpectrum is an innovative tool, developed by the Belgian startup with the same name, which uses an easy-to-use, fast and reliable spectroscopy technology to improve the safety, quality and authenticity of food quality testing. The aim is to further relieve retailers in this area. Xpectrum works with NIR (Near Infrared) Spectroscopy: by means of light and its reflection, the composition and texture of a food product can be measured, while it also allows you to detect, for example, whether water was added to a food product such as chicken, what type it concerns, but also whether a product has the predefined quality characteristics.
Thanks to this technology, when products or raw materials are received, employees can very easily carry out the measurement themselves using a handheld scanner (spectrometer) which emits the NIR light, and within seconds obtains the result as to whether or not the product is satisfactory. By integrating this into daily operations, much larger quantities can efficiently be controlled than in a lab environment.
Simon Steverlinck, International Business development at Xpectrum: "Through machine learning and artificial intelligence technology, you can immediately see if something is wrong with your food product when you scan it. A sample that has been measured can be included in the flow of the other products – for example, in production, or when the product still has to be packaged – so there is no food waste. What’s more, the whole thing is highly scalable: it allows retailers to carry out as many measurements as necessary, at no extra cost. The more you scan, the more you know, at the same cost". Besides, companies can adapt the tool to create specific models for their products.
Early warning system: accurate and above all quick quality checks
A 12-month test at Colruyt Group demonstrated the competitive advantage of NIR spectroscopy. Stefan Goethaert: "During the test, we have now tested 100 times more samples than we can normally check in 12 months, and in 70% of the samples where deviations were found by the new technology, this was effectively confirmed by the lab”. With this system, Colruyt Group was able to make its monitoring system even more efficient. Instead of randomly selecting samples for further analysis by the external lab, the system told which samples needed to be examined further. Goethaert: "The difference in cost is estimated at €30,000 per product - more efficient monitoring such as this also helps us to continue to deliver on the Colruyt brand promise of the lowest price (lowest price = lowest cost).”
The solution offered by Xpectrum is a lot cheaper than sending the samples to a lab and, besides, an immediate result is guaranteed. Stefan Goethaert: “This is mainly an early warning system: we will never be able to replace the lab 100%, but we will definitely send it more targeted samples. We always have to consider a margin of error - with this technology, but also in the lab. The future is indeed looking promising.”
Xpectrum was supported by Smart Hub Vlaams Brabant (https://www.smarthubvlaamsbrabant.be/projecten/puresure)
Should you have any questions, please contact:
- Colruyt Group’s press office: firstname.lastname@example.org – 0473 92 45 10 (NL)
- Xpectrum: Simon Steverlinck, International Business development - www.xpectrum.eu - email@example.com