You Are What You Eat: Protecting The Health Of Consumers Through Food And Beverage Analysis

insights from industryBrad Harrison & Artem EgorovBusiness Development Manager & Application DirectorLumex Instruments

An interview with Brad Harrison and Artem Egorov, discussing the importance of protecting consumer health through developing instruments that can analyze levels of common, but potentially lethal, compounds in food and beverages. This interview was conducted at Pittcon 2019 and focuses on the demonstrations that Lumex Instruments carried out on the expo floor.

Why is it important to determine the amount of caffeine, ascorbic acid, and preservatives in every day, non-alcoholic beverages?

Artem: Many compounds that are lethal at higher concentrations can be found at low levels in everyday drink and food items. For example, many manufacturers use toxic chemicals to remove the caffeine from coffee and sell it as a decaffeinated product.

The non-alcoholic drink industry has never been bigger, so it is important that all beverages are tested.Zodiacphoto | Shutterstock

A single drink poses no health risks, but an entire day’s worth of coffee could contain potentially harmful levels of process chemicals such as methylene chloride. Excessive consumption of this compound has been linked to headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Hence, it is important to analyze the levels of such compounds in everyday beverages.

What is the Capel-205 system and how does it compare with traditional analysis techniques?

Artem: Traditionally, beverages were analyzed using UV spectroscopy. Nowadays, people typically use HPLC or capillary electrophoresis, which in my opinion, is a more accurate and successful technique.

Capel-205 is a multifunctional capillary electrophoresis system that can be used to analyze a range of compounds, from caffeine to synthetic dyes (food coloring) to preservatives such as benzoic acid.

Companies are required by law to measure each of these compounds separately, which is expensive and time-consuming to do if you are using UV spectroscopy. The Capel-205 can screen for all of the required compounds in ten minutes or less. Moreover, operating the instrument is easy and samples are less likely to be damaged as preparation is simple.

Compared to HPLC, the Capel-205 doesn’t require any high-pressure pumps or specialist materials, making it cheaper and easier to use on a day-to-day basis. Our technology is also faster than current HPLC instruments on the market.

Why is it important to monitor mercury levels in the food and beverage industry?

Brad: Mercury is a metal that naturally occurs at very low levels in many everyday products. It is a neurotoxin that at low levels, affects mood and memory. The build-up of mercury over time can lead to neuromuscular issues and mood swings, and at extremely high levels, a complete loss of motor function and cognitive ability, which is often fatal. It is therefore essential to monitor the levels of mercury in all food and drink items, especially those marketed for children.

Why are hair samples used to analyze mercury exposure?

Artem: Ideally, you need a blood sample to determine the amount of mercury a person has been exposed to, but we can’t really do this at Pittcon! Instead, we are demonstrating the power of our RA-915M mercury analyzer using hair samples, which can be used to screen for mercury in the human body and act as micro surfaces for compounds we consume and inhale from the atmosphere.

Mercury is an extremely challenging compound for analysis using traditional methods, so we wanted to develop an instrument that addresses this issue. The RA-915M uses a tiny amount of analyte and no reagent, preparation, or specialist skills, with results in just two minutes.

How are Lumex Instruments helping to make mercury testing fast and easy for scientists?

Artem: The body is not the only place where mercury testing is needed. For example, seafood is known to be high in mercury, as well as light bulbs and batteries. Our goal is to provide consumers with an instrument that can be used to measure mercury in any system, such as the air, the soil in your backyard, or your own body.

Mercury levels are naturally high in shellfish.Mercury levels are naturally high in shellfish. (Oksana Mizin | Shutterstock).

Please can you tell me about the demonstrations you are carrying out at Pittcon 2019?

Artem: We chose to showcase the RA-915M and Capel-205 products through demonstrations at Pittcon so people could really see the instruments in action.

As mentioned previously, the RA-915M, which provides direct mercury measurements down to PPB levels without pretreatment, was used to measure mercury in the hair of Pittcon delegates. This machine generates a peak that can be analyzed using our software to determine the concentration of mercury in a sample.

Similarly, the Capel-205 system, which can be used to analyze a range of potentially harmful compounds in everyday food and beverages, was used to analyze drinks like coffee or sodas. We asked Pittcon delegates to bring along a beverage and have it tested on the expo floor. The running time for this instrument is around 10 minutes and data is generated for a whole range of compounds, including caffeine and ascorbic acid, for example.

What’s next for Lumex Instruments?

Brad: Our main goal is to understand the needs of our customers and evolve with the industry as a whole. At Pittcon this year, the trend has been small, portable instruments that do not compromise on resolution, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this field through our mercury analyzer.

Coming to Pittcon enables us to connect with our customers and understand the challenges that they are having, and then respond with new instrumentation that addresses those issues.

Where can readers find more information?

Find out more about food and beverage analysis using the Capel-205 or mercury testing using the RA-915M.

About Artem Egorov

Artem Headshot

Artem has more than 25 years of experience in analytical chemistry. His focus is instrumental analysis in spectroscopic and separation areas. For over 20 years of his work with Lumex Instruments, he has been responsible for R&D, application and technical support.

About Brad Harrison

Brad Harrison Headshot

Brad has over 26 years in medical diagnostics with companies such as Roche Diagnostics, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Abbott Diagnostics. Brad has experience in customer relations, project management, and business development across Canada and internationally for medical devices.

About Lumex Instruments

For almost 30 years, Lumex Instruments has been developing and manufacturing laboratory and industrial analytical equipment, instruments, and procedures.

Our products are used for environmental control, water and wastewater treatment, agriculture, food and beverage quality and safety control, energy industry, and pharmaceutical and biochemical applications. Lumex Instruments offers more than 120 applications for the measurement of organic and inorganic chemicals in liquid, solid and gas.

Lumex Instruments' product line includes capillary electrophoresis systems, PCR analyzers, atomic absorption spectrometers (including mercury analyzers and monitors), FTIR and NIR Spectrometers, fluorimeters and more.

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