Meine Lebensmittel

My FoodThere is nothing better to philosophize about endlessly than a healthy diet. What is healthy? What isn’t? Have the vegetarians got it right? Or was the diet in the stone age preferable? With lactose? Without gluten? With soy milk or cow milk? Whether your personal choice is a vegan, vegetarian or mixed diet, everybody agrees about one thing: the quality must be good and the food must be free of pollutants. The following is a presentation of the different groups of foodstuffs with their specific requirements.

 

Grains and Grain ProductsGrains and Grain Products

Botanically speaking, grains belong to the family of grasses (poaceae). They are annuals and have been cultivated for the last 5,000 years. They are staple foods for human beings and animals. The most common kinds are maize, rice, wheat, rye, barley, oats and millet. So a great deal is done in agriculture to protect grain from hungry enemies, diseases and mold. It is therefore necessary to pay close attention to the quality of these product groups.

Plant Protection Agents Plant Protection Agents

Pesticides are commonly used in conventional agriculture. More than 700 different active ingredients used in different combinations are approved and sold. They are either systemic (inside the plants) or non-systemic (on the surface). The pesticides can be categorized according to their effect. Among the most wide spread types are the following:

  • Herbicides (against plants and „weeds“)
  • Insecticides (against insects)
  • Rodenticides (against rodents)
  • Fungicides (against mold)
  • Molluscides (against snails)
  • Growth regulators (which improve the plant stability and the roots of  cuttings)

Mycotoxins Mycotoxins

Along with residues from plant protection agents, mold is a serious problem with grains, especially in the warm, humid summer months. The mold itself is not the problem, but rather the poisons developed in it, the so-called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can be divided into several groups:

  • Aflatoxins (in maize, grain, dried fruit, spices, …;  carcinogenic)
  • Deoxynivalenol (in grain; can cause loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches)
  • Fumonisins (in maize, moldy vegetables; possibly carcinogenic)
  • Ochratoxin (in maize, wheat, coffee, grapes, peanuts,…;toxic to the kidneys, suppresses immune system)
  • T2 and HT2 (in maize, barley; suppresses immune system)
  • Zearalenone ZEA (in maize, grains; estrogen)

Mycotoxins Heavy Metals

Lead, cadmium, arsenic, and quicksilver are the metals most commonly examined in grains.

Gene Manipulated Organisms (GMO) Gene Manipulated Organisms (GMO)

The cultivation of gene manipulated plants is growing worldwide, especially gene manipulated maize. It is the main animal feed. A growing number of types are being used. The labeling identifying food is not also not always clear. And the TTIP free trade agreement has left many consumers with a feeling of uncertainty.

Quality Parameters Quality Parameters

Besides examining what unwanted substances are in our food, it is also important to check the quality of the food itself. Especially important are the quantity and quality of the starch, the protein content, the roughage and the minerals. Three characteristics are decisive for wheat used in baking: the protein content, the protein quality and the quality of the starch. The amount of protein can be measured quantitatively. The quality of the protein can be determined by the sedimentation rate. The quality of the starch can be determined using the so-called falling number.

Processed FoodsProcessed Foods

Ravioli in a can, instant soups, orange lemonade or the baking mixture for the cake on Sunday are all processed foods. These products are divided into partly prepared foods and those ready to eat. They can be subdivided into the following groups:

  • Ready to eat (e.g. egg salad, ice cream)
  • Ready to heat (e.g. frozen pizza, canned ravioli)
  • Ready to infuse (e.g. instant noodle soup, pudding powder)
  • Pre-cooked (e.g. breaded chicken breast, noodles)
  • Ready to cook (e.g. frozen vegetables, noodles)

There are many steps  between raw materials and pre-prapared foods. The food can be cut up, mixed, heated, stirred and packed. The final result will hopefullly be a high quality product which looks attractive, smells good, has a good consistency and tastes good. But many steps in production can also mean many mistakes that can be made. There are a whole series of parameters which can be checked. The following is a selection:

Quality

  • Nutritional value
  • composition Sensory impressions (look, smell, taste, texture)
  • Vitamin content
  • Type of animal

Contaminants

Allergens

  • At this time, the following allergens must be noted on labels:
  • grains containing gluten
  • shellfish
  • eggs
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • soybeans
  • milk (including lactose)
  • nuts (which must be named)
  • celery
  • mustard
  • sesame seeds
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphite (more than 10 mg per kilogram or liter)
  • lupines
  • mollusks

Other contaminants

  • Microorganisms (salmonella, yeast, mold,…)
  • Plant protection agents
  • Gene manipulated organisms (GMO)
  • Mold toxins (Mycotoxins)
  • Residues of veterinary medicines

Coffee, Tea, CocoaCoffee, Tea, Cocoa

  The smell of freshly brewed coffee, tea, or a hot cocoa can give you a feeling of comfort and coziness. It’s like a small vacation, a moment to relax. All three have conquered the world and are an intregal part of our daily lives. Quality and safety are important here.

Coffee

Coffee has its origins in Africa from where it spread to the Arab world,  Constantinople and Venice. It reached Europe by the middle of the 19th century and is consumed everywhere now. Today Brasil, Vietnam and Indonesia are the biggest coffee producers. Coffee requires a stable climate with temperatures between 13° and 30° degrees centigrade and between 1500 and 2000 mm of rain annually. There are about 70 different kinds of  coffee but only two which are of commercial importance, Coffea arabica (75%) and coffea  canephora (robusta) (25%). The other kinds have a 1% share between them. From an analytic point of view the following parameters are significant:

Content

  • coffein
  • flavoring agents
  • minerals
  • acids

Contaminants  

  • Heavy metals
  • Mycotoxins (Ochratoxin A)
  • Furan
  • Acrylamide
  • Plant protection agents (raw coffee)

Tea

Tea (camelia sinensis) has its origin in Asia, or China, to be more precise. It was brought to Europe in the 17th century by the Dutch. Tea is made from young leaves and buds. Depending on the processing (fermentation), it is made into black tea, green tea, oolong tea or white tea.

  • Black tea: fermented tea
  • Green tea: unfermented tea
  • Oolong tea: half fermented tea
  • White tea: up to 20% fermented tea

Especially important contents are catechine and, of course, coffein, of which tea can contain 4.5%. From an analytical point of view, the following parameters should get special attention

Contents

  • Coffein
  • Catechine
  • Minerals
  • Extracts

According to the guidelines for tea and similar products, the amount of  acid insoluable ashes should not exceed more than 1% and the loss of water should not exceed 8%.

Contaminants

  • Plant protection agents
  • Pyrolizidine alkoloids
  • Nicotine
  • Polycyclical aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Micoorganisms Mold toxins (mycotoxins)
  • Heavy metals (lead, cadmium, arsenic, quicksilver)

Cocoa

Cocoa is made from the seeds of the cocoa tree (theobroma cacao). Originally it is from South America. There are two main kinds that are commercially exploited: forastero and criollo. Forastero is more robust and has higher yields, but is less flavorful. From an analytical point of view, special attention should be paid to the following parameters:

Contents

  • Theobromine
  • Fats
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

Contaminants

  • Heavy metals: cocoa is one of the plants that absorbs a lot of heavy metals from the soil
  • Mycotoxins (Ochratoxin A)
  • Plant protection agents

 

Herbs and SpicesHerbs and Spices

Were you ever in an Indian restaurant? And were you also overwhelmed by the odors emanating from the spices? Spices are parts of plants (roots, seeds, leaves,…) which naturally add flavor and aroma and ethereal oil to food. Spices improve our food. They make the taste of the food just explode. They are used fresh or dried, whole or as a powder, alone or mixed. Quality and safety are both very important here. Many unwanted and dangerous substances can find their way into our food along with the spices. Children are at special risk.

Examples of possible contaminants

  • Unallowed color additives to give the mixture a more intensive color
  • Heavy metals
  • Mold toxins (e.g aflatoxins which develop when the drying process is not properly done, Pyrolizidine alkoloids (in herbs)
  • Nicotine
  • Plant protection agents (pesticides)
  • Microorganisms
  • Allergenic substances

 

Milk and Dairy ProductsMilk and Dairy Products

Milk is a food of animal origin made up of water, lactose, fat and proteins. This fluid is produced by mammals to feed their young. Cow milk is commercially the most important. We know that milk has been used from the early stone age as food for humans. Sheep and goats were domesticated first, then cows. German consumption per person annually:

  • 24.6 Kilograms of cheese
  • 17.0 kilograms yoghurt
  • 57.6 kilograms of milk.

From an analytic point of view, the following parameters are important:

Contents

  • Fat content
  • Protein content
  • Freezing point (milk)
  • Sensory impressions (look, taste, smell, texture)

Contaminants

  • Microorganisms
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Plant protection agents (fat soluable pesticides)

 

Fruit and VegetablesFruit and Vegetables

The call to eat fruit 5 times a day is geared to a healthy diet with regular consumption of fruit and vegetables. However, in recent years there have often been headlines about pesticides in conventional products such as grapes, tomatoes, pomaceous fruit, and berries. NGO’s have often pointed this out. This has led to an improvement in quality.

Whether you really eat this food five times a day is up to you. Everybody has his own dietary philosophy. In any case, it is advisable to ingest as few contaminants as possible along with your fruit and vegetables. From an analytic point of view, the following parameters are important:

Quality Parameters

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

Contaminants

  • Pesticides – The producers use pesticides to protect the products from predators, insects, mold, etc. If allowed substances are used properly, the amount of pesticide in the product should not exceed the established limits. Legal problems develop when the pesticides are improperly used or when forbidden substances are employed.
  • Nitrate in leafy green vegetables and root vegetables – Plants need nitrate to build proteins. They get it from the soil. Leafy green vegetables and root vegetables are plants which systematically absorb nitrate. This means that the concentration of nitrate in these plants is higher than in other vegetables grown in the same soil.
  • The mold toxin patulin (fruit and tomatoes) – Patulin often develops from penicillium (P.) expansum, which is the main cause of rot in fruit and vegetables.
  • Microorganisms – If the water in your watering can is contaminated, the microorganisms will be transferred to the plants. This can mean that faeces pathogens enter them. Since EHEC, it has become clear that we should be careful with food that has not been heated.

 

Fruit and VegetablesOil and Oil Seeds

Oil producing plants are among the ones that have been cultivated the longest. Fats and oils from plants are an important part of our diet. The difference between the two lies in their consistency at room temperature. Fats are solid, oils are liquid. Fats and oils are very nourishing. A gram of pure fat contains 38-39 Kilojoule. The human body requires fats or at least parts of fats to build membranes.

Fats are a mixture of triglycerides. Triglycerides are made up of trivalent alcohol combined with different fatty acid residues. Every oil plant produces its own special combination of fatty acids, which, of course, fluctuate. Nonetheless, an analysis of the make up of the fatty acids can provide a good indication of whether the oil is really the one declared on the label. The amount of oleic acid in olive oil, for example, is especially high but the amount of  linoleic acid is much less than in rape oil.

In general we differentiate between polyunsaturated  and saturated fatty acids. Some polyunsaturated oils play a special role because our bodies cannot produce them so they must be eaten. This makes them essential. Especially important are polyunsaturated Omega-3 (e.g. linolenic acid) and Omega-6 (linoleic acid) fats.

The relevant parameters for this product group are:

Contents

  • Sensory impressions (look, taste, smell, texture)
  • Fatty acid composition
  • Long chain fatty acids

Contaminants

  • Plant protection agents
  • Heavy metal
  • Polycyclical aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Mineral oil hydrocarbons
  • Softeners (in fats and oils)
  • Solvents (in fats and oils)
  • Mold toxins (mycotoxins in oil seeds)

 

WaterWater

No food is controlled as carefully and as often as our drinking water. This is regulated by law. Drinking water must be

  • colorless
  • odorless
  • free of pathogens
  • have a neutral taste.

Usually everything is the way it should be when the water leaves the water works. But what happens afterward?

A secondary contamination with bacteria, viruses or heavy metals can take place. Hot water tanks, for example, are often a source of contamination. Along with communal water works, there are many households with their own private facilities. There is no municipal control over them so the owner has to have these facilities tested. He or she alone is responsible.

Together with our drinking water, you can find bottled water such as mineral water and table water in almost all households. Mineral waters are also carefully controlled by a network of regulations. Nonetheless, NGO’s like Stiftung Warentest and Ökotest have proven that mineral waters can vary in quality.

The following parameters are sensible:

Drinking water

  • microorganisms
  • heavy metals
  • radioactivity

Household water ( non-potable)

  • Microorganisms
  • heavy metals
  • minerals (natrium)
  • plant protection agents and their degradation products
  • hormones
  • acetaldyhyde
  • minderals (natrium)

German Blog EntriesBlog Entries

As of now,  our Blog is available in German only. You can find the entries here.

Pollutants in baby food

Pollutants get into baby food in different ways Baby food is one of the most highly controlled foods. Baby food manufacturers have installed a chain of control over all production steps and levels. Starting with the farmer with the control of animal feed, fertilizers and seeds; continuing with the analysis of raw materials such as […]

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Olive oil – Test – Finally the breakthrough of sensor technology

Olive oil is a very popular staple food The olive oil test of Stiftung Warentest, published in February 2018, shows again that the quality criteria of the EU regulation for olive oil bring only half the truth to light. The February 2017 test came to a similar conclusion. The quality criteria laid down in the […]

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Allergen labelling of foods

my-lab’s allergen labelling service and our analyses for the detection of allergens can be found here. The number of food intolerances is constantly increasing. Since 2014, 14 product groups must be labelled on prepackages, menu cards and loose goods. The labelling of allergens is not only legally prescribed, but is also absolutely necessary for allergy […]

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Quality control of herbal tea

To order information Quality control of herbal tea The German Foundation “Warentest” repeatedly tested herbal teas and published the results (as of issue 04/2017). Unwanted substances such as anthraquinone, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (short PA) and pesticides continue to determine the scope of the test and their results. These pollutants are a knock-out criterion because they are […]

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FOOD STUFF PACKAGING

Packaging food stuffs is practical and important. Packaging protects food stuffs from germs, may help keep them fresh for longer periods of time, and allows preparation of defined amounts for the consumer. Can packaging become a problem? Quite apart from the ecological issues caused by ‘too much’ packaging or packaging made of plastics, it is […]

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1-MCP – a new approach to detect the treatment of fruits using this storage protector

1-MCP (1-Methylcyclopropen) is used to control the ripening of fruit 1-MCP stands for 1-Methycyclopropene. Known brand names include Smart Fresh, EthylBloc and FreshStart. It has been developed by the company AgroFresh. This small, modest molecule allows fruit to be stored for months in cool rooms. It is used to slow down the ripening  of apples, […]

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Food Labeling – A service of my-lab International

Food labeling provides the consumer with valuable information on a product Incorrect labeling is the most common reason for food producers to receive a written warning from food monitoring authorities. The correct label is an important part of marketability. my-lab international is able to compile a list of legally relevant issues based on the recipe […]

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Arsenic – an antique poison

Arsenic- the poisonous metalloid Arsenic can be found in nature in a carbon compound and as an inorganic arsenic compound. According to the GHS, dangerous substances labeling, arsenic has been characterized as „poisonous“ and also „very poisonous“. Anyone who regularly comes in contact with arsenic can damage their skin and their blood corpuscles. The latter […]

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