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New Facts about FACTS

By Linda Jackson on 25 September 2019

The 2019 Biennial SAAFOST congress is a great place to catch up with old friends and we had the chance to touch base with the FACTS family once again. We chatted to Dr Harris Steinman, Carine Davies, Gabrielle Jackson and Dr. Karim Dhanani during a tea break.


From L to R: Gabrielle Jackson, Dr Harris Steinman, Carine Davies,  and Dr. Karim Dhanani during a tea break.

Food & allergy testing and consulting services (FACTS) is the ‘go-to’ company for providing customised and practical solutions for any query, big or small, to support their clients’ business plans for product quality, brand preservation and overall growth.

The FACTS team routinely offer services to adapt product label(s) to comply with South African legislation. If required, they will test your compliance against the regulations for the Department of Health (DoH); Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). They also are renowned for allergy testing being as the FACTS laboratory was the first in South Africa to offer commercial detection and quantification of common food allergens. They also specialize in animal species screening, Fish and animal species identification and authenticity testing for herbs and spices via microscopic screening.

The FACTS team are always eagerly anticipated speakers at SAAFOST congresses, and this year was no exception with papers presented by Dr. Harris Steinman and the “new kid on the block”, Dr. Karim Dhanani in the food fraud breakaway stream.

Dr Dhanani’s talk titled: How to Approach Analysis as a Tool For Managing Vulnerabilities; highlighted the importance of authenticity testing as a quality criterion for food and food ingredients and the opportunity for food producers to assure labelling compliance, support branding and quality signals. Knowing what to test for is often the hardest question to answer, as one can never be sure what the food fraudsters are up to. The paper presented a full review of the possible methods and the uses and benefits of each.

 

Dr Steinman’s presentation stressed the importance of horizon scanning to monitoring threats and opportunities for the food industry with regards to food fraud. Vulnerability assessment requires a paradigm shift from reactionary to preventative (predictive) approaches and this should be medium to long term issues for effective preventative actions.


From L to R:  Dr Harris Steinman with Dr. Karim Dhanani at the SAAFoST Biennial Congress 2019

 

Horizon scanning involves the gathering of data and information across a wide range of sources and domains, e.g. social, technological, economic, environmental, e.g. climate change, political, legal and ethical issues. Harris presented a range of tools that are accessible to the food industry. The information available can already highlight trends and repeat offenders to help the food industry become smarter in the ongoing war on adulteration of food products for economic gain.

 

Taking testing to the next level

Karim’s appointment to the previously women-dominated FACTS laboratory in Stellenbosch in strategic to further position FACTS as the ‘go-to” solution provider. According to Dr. Steinman, although a long-time associate of the team, Karim has now been formally appointed as the scientific officer at FACTS. Karim’s specialized skills are in research and innovation, assay development and analytical methods. This coupled with quantitative reasoning now allows FACTS to develop customized testing protocols for clients based on their particular problems. Using scientific approach when developing non-accredited methods, FACTS will ensure that the results provided are valid and accurate.

According to Gabrielle Jackson, the FACTS team have developed training workshops to assist clients with regulatory compliance and understanding. In addition to the label evaluations, the team can proactively assist with product formulation to ensure new products will be compliant.

Food fraud has been a natural extension for FACTS according to Dr. Dhanani. “We have become known as a service provider that will find a solution, even if there isn’t one. We will find a way to answer your question”.

Carine Davies emphasized the “organic” development of the FACTS services as these have been in direct relationship to FACTS customers. “With the development and implementation of VACCP, a company needs to do horizon scanning, training of a team, testing and then develop an action plan if they have a problem, we can now help you every step of the way.”

According to the FACTS team: “Food fraud is definitely more prevalent than we would like it to be. Many of the reputable companies are paying more attention but for many are putting their heads in the sand and hoping it will pass by. There are still large companies pushing the boundaries with marketing products in a way that dilutes the category. They are getting away with it because there is no enforcement or policing. We can’t rely on the moral compass of the food industry in many cases. We forget we are also consumers and that we would not want to be misled by incorrect and unethical marketing.”

 

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