Sigma Test and Research Centre : Laboratory Testing,Quality Control,Testing Services

Since independence India has transformed from a food-deficit to a food surplus country. India have varied agro- climatic conditions along with huge production base which makes it the leading exporter of fresh as well as processed food products.

Despite all the efforts, exporters of agricultural products in India face continuous rejections and bans in the markets of foreign countries. These non-compliance's occurs due to various reasons such as manifestation of pest, banned chemical residues and microbial contamination in the food product supposed to be exported. Rejections leads to loss of income and market to the exporters.

Some agricultural products such as mangoes, okra, curry leaves, peanuts, table grapes, chillies, prawns, shrimps, and tamarind faced rejections and bans in markets of US, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Bhutan and Europe due to health and food safety standards issues.

All food manufacturers should test their food product for safety, contamination or residue, and accurate nutrition composition. Techniques involved in testing of food products are:

Analytical Chemistry testing:

This involves testing of fresh and processed food products for pH, colors, additives, preservatives, contaminants, minerals and trace elements. Accurate nutritional analysis is crucial as it ensures that the consumer comply with labeling regulations as well as retailer specifications. Analyzing the chemical make-up of food products is important for health claims, nutrition labeling and allergen warnings. It also reveals the normal nutrient composition of food, levels of natural intoxicants and allergens, potential contaminants, like pesticide and migrants from packaging.

Food microbiology testing:

Micro-organisms contaminating or inhabiting food products are tested to assess the safety of the raw material, component, ingredients and final products. Microbiological food testing does not guarantee 100% safe food product as it is done only on a small sample. It just ensures that the food material is free from pathogens by the testing procedures and sampling methods used. It guides if the sampling/testing procedure is correctly designed and finished according to the guidelines or not.

Food nutrition analysis:

Normally food companies send their food samples to various labs for nutritional analysis. Under this they estimate moisture, protein, total fat, crude ash, dietary fibre, sodium, sugars, carbohydrate and energy. The labeling on food products should mention the complete nutritional composition of the food product. All countries have different labeling regulations so the exporter should manage labeling of their product accordingly. This includes nutrition facts panel formatted, serving size per container, declaration (if required), ingredients list (as per dominance), and food allergen labeling.

Food Allergen testing:

Food allergens are naturally proteins in food or their derivatives causing abnormal immune response. Every product is first tested for potential allergen in the ingredient of final product. Allergic components commonly found in food products include gluten, eggs, peanuts, nuts, soybeans and milk. Visible label with warning about the potential allergic contents should be printed on packaging. Food related allergies are something that stays life long. So, it is important for food manufacturers to conduct regular tests for potential allergen that may contaminate their products.

Sensory Testing:

The identification of a food product by human senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste) is used for evaluating consumer product. Special taste assessors are appointed to test the taste of the finished food product in industries. This can be seen through:

  • Sight- for determining color of a food product
  • Smell-for detecting presence of rancidity in food
  • Taste-for testing flavor of a food product
  • Touch-for checking the texture of any food commodity
  • Hearing- e.g. Crunchiness of potato chips

Pesticide Residue Testing:

Pesticide levels above the regulated value are hazardous for the food chain and are tested foremost in any food product testing. Pesticide residues such as fungicides, insecticides, molluscicides, herbicides, rodenticides are tested in a sample by liquid and gas chromatography. STRC offers tests for pesticides in cereals, beverages, dairy products, grains, legumes, fruit, sea food, poultry products and vegetables.

Chemical Residue Testing:

Animal-based food products usually contain chemical residues due to consumption of veterinary medicines by the source animal. We offer testing for determining the levels of chemical residues in agro- products, water, processed food etc so that they do not go beyond the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL). MRL is the maximum concentration of any chemical residue that is legally allowed in food, agricultural products or animal feed. Chemical residues in food are tested using mass spectrometers, IR spectroscopy and chromatography.

Under the EIA Export Act for Agricultural and Processed Food Products, the Government of India has founded a common authority that approves any food item before exporting outside India. Shipments of products such as basmati rice and groundnuts gets contaminated with aflatoxins due to poor storage, poor transportation conditions, unhygienic conditions and limited pack houses.

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) performs all the duties to ensure that no unreliable food product is exported to any other country from India. It also checks for scheduled products including meat and poultry products, dairy products, bakery products, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, cereal products, nuts, floriculture products, medicinal plants etc.

It has been advised by the APEDA that all the exporters registered under it should get a Health certificate issued for export of their food products. Health certificate (issued by EIC/EIA) is a single sheet document, duly signed and dated. Original health certificate is required during custom clearance proceedings at the destination place. Any consignment with a photocopy or fax copy of the original certificate will not clear custom formalities without presenting the original copy of the certificate.

In India, the Export Inspection Council (EIC) is the competent authority recognized by the European Commission to verify and certify Fishery and Aquaculture products. For shipping of food products a shipping bill/bill of exports has to be issued by the Custom Authority.

Comparison of EU, US and Japan Imports from India
European Union United States Japan
Import of Food Products From India (in USD million) 3112.1 2861.2 536.8
Rejecting Authority Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) & European Union Notification System for Plant Health Interceptions (EUROPHYT) Food and Drug Administration Ministry of Health, Lab Food and Drug Administration and Welfare
Treatment for mangoes Hot water treatment Gamma Irradiation Vapour heat treatment
Import Tolerance 1 ppm 3 ppm 3 ppm
Specific Trade Concerns (STCs) issued by India against 8 4 3

Food product exporters commonly face issues like:

  • Pest infestation
  • High levels of pesticides residues
  • Low MRLs without any scientific justification
  • Low harmonized Standards across countries
  • Rigid Import regulation in the destination country
  • High risk diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

We ensure safe and efficient testing of food products for quality control to maintain quality standards for export to Europe, US and Japan comply with their import standards. If the food manufacturers adhere to international testing standard, inspection and certification then it will reduce the chances of rejection of product in the foreign markets, and will reduce cost of production as less amount of pesticides, chemicals, etc. will be used.