Utilizing X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzers to Improve Food Safety

Hitachi has been in the business of manufacturing handheld and benchtop XRF (X-ray fluorescence) analyzers for more than 45 years. These analyzers allow businesses around the world to comply with strict regulations, food safety standards, nutritional parameters and safeguard the quality of food.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is a well-known analytical technique that has been used for several years to identify the elemental composition of a wide range of materials, including food and agricultural products.

Generally, XRF can analyze various elements, from sodium to uranium, in different concentrations ranging from parts per million to high percentages in solids, liquids and powders.

Utilizing X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzers to Improve Food Safety

Image Credit: Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science

Below are four real-life examples of how XRF analyzers can assist and support food safety.

Salt Content in Food

Salt content in food is already subject to strict regulations, with several governments pressurizing the food industry to make extra salt reductions by introducing legislation or financial penalties.

In the past, salt levels in food have been quantified by direct silver nitrate titration, which is best suited to a laboratory environment rather than in general food production processes.

Hitachi has been working with an established and well-known brand that has been producing tinned foods such as soups, sauces and pastes for over a century.

Their challenge was to establish a testing method that was appropriate for a food production environment, that gives the requisite precision to meet salt regulations and that is quick enough to sustain continuous production.

Hitachi’s LAB-X benchtop XRF analyzer offered the ideal solution. By detecting the presence of chlorine from the salt in the food, the device gives a reading that is translated into salt content.

The device is typically used for testing ingredients on arrival, before the finished food is packaged into tins or jars at final inspection and to determine whether a made-up sauce can be released into production.

Since making use of the LAB-X, this manufacturer has reduced the amount of product they’ve had to reject before distribution.

Read the full use case on LAB-X for salt content in food.

Milk Powders

Each year more than 8 million tons of powdered milk are produced globally for a range of food products, such as baby formulas, confectionaries, sports and nutritional foods. To make sure the product is compliant with regulations, specifications and quality, there is a close monitoring protocol of the composition of the powders.

This is typically conducted in a laboratory with inductively coupled plasma spectrometry-atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES), which includes time-consuming chemical preparation stages that necessitate high degrees of skill.

A leading food and beverage company provided Hitachi with well-characterized samples which were used to calibrate the X-MET8000 handheld XRF analyzer.

To reach the greatest accuracy and repeatability required for production control, some sample preparation is necessary.

The fine milk powder is aggregated into a strong pellet via compression in a die using a hydraulic press (usually 4 to 6 grams sample pressed at 2-3 tons for 32 mm-diameter pellets). Subsequently, each pellet is placed into the benchtop, or portable light stand for analysis.

The X-MET8000 is the perfect fit for quality control process integration, providing excellent performance for the swift determination of P, Cl, K, Ca, Mn, Fe, Cu and Zn in milk powders. There is no requirement for a helium purge: the analysis is straightforward and conducted in air path, which significantly reduces analysis cost.

Download the complete application note on X-MET8000 series for the rapid and cost-effective analysis of milk powders

Potato Tubers

Hidden hunger is the term given to a diet lacking in essential nutrients, causing health problems in the populations that depend on those diets. It’s a frequently seen problem among the rural populations of developing countries that live on diets that typically depend on a single plant-based food.

A biofortification program is trying to tackle this issue. Biofortification increases the density of vitamins and minerals in a crop through specific plant breeding programs.

Research paper: potential and application of XRF to estimate iron and zinc concentration in potato tubers

A recent biofortification program involves developing potato tubers with a high zinc and iron concentration. The researchers are faced with the challenge of estimating the zinc and iron concentration reliably within each crop of potatoes.

As the final nutrient content is affected by soil type, environment and the potato cultivar itself, numerous in-the-field trials are necessary until the optimal conditions can be pinpointed for reliable crop cultivation.

The most reliable method of measuring mineral levels in crops is a technique known as ICP-OES (inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry). It’s a complex technique that requires extensive sample preparation, chemicals and necessitates the employment of highly skilled staff to operate the equipment.

In contrast, XRF can be used with minimum training by almost anyone, and the analysis can be performed directly on the sample without the use of any chemicals.

The potato tuber researchers made use of Hitachi’s X-Supreme8000 benchtop XRF analyzer to determine the iron and zinc content of biofortified potato tuber crops grown in Peru. The XRF analysis technique proved is highly effective and enables potato breeders to rapidly analyze crucial mineral content.

Read the full article on XRF and solving the hidden hunger problem

Mapping Process Equipment Composition

With handheld XRF, identifying the origin of foreign objects in food where the origin is usually from the process equipment is made easy.

Hitachi’s customers include well-known food and beverage manufacturers who utilize the X-MET to “map” their process equipment composition so that they can determine where contamination (metal particle/fragment) occurs so that they can determine the necessary action to take.

The X-MET can also be used to accept or reject claims made by customers. If the particle doesn’t match any of the materials or grades that a manufacturer uses in the process, they are able to verify if there are any false claims.

These are just four examples of how Hitachi is powering good and how its XRF technology has a significant influence on today’s society.

To make the manufacture of food safe today and healthy tomorrow, contact Hitachi’s expert to discuss specific requirements.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

For more information on this source, please visit Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

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