Every day, trained professionals use high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to analyze food samples and keep consumers safe. HPLC is a useful and important method for separating the liquid components of food samples into their core chemical compounds. By breaking down complex mixtures using specialized chemical detectors, HPLC pros identify, classify, and quantify a food’s components— thereby detecting any unusual additives or contaminants present.
Because consumer food safety is such an important responsibility, most countries have established tolerance levels for chemical additives and contaminants allowed in food products. In Canada, HPLC training programs teach students how to comply with the nation’s specific food safety standards all the way from production to plate.
Here’s our guide to how HPLC impacts the food and drink industry, and how you can take part in this important work once you start your career:
1. HPLC Tests Food Safety at the Earliest Fertilization/Production Stages
When growing fruits and vegetables, many food producers often rely on the help of chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth, as well as pesticides to keep them pest-free.
That’s why modern agriculture and food processing workers need the help of professionals with HPLC training at even the earliest stages of the food production process. HPLC technicians test all kinds of foods sampled throughout this early growth and production stage in order to ensure that fertilizers, pesticides, and other additives do not exceed prescribed levels. This early testing helps to nip any harmful chemical problems in the bud, allowing the food and drink industry to avoid recalls further down the line during the food production process.
2. HPLC Training Pros Keep Meat Safe for Consumption
HPLC testing is also an indispensable aspect of the meat processing industry. To protect consumers from the harmful effects of eating bad meat, both private and public control agencies often hire HPLC program graduates to analyze select meat samples throughout their production.
If you become an HPLC professional, you may find yourself conducting tests and analyses on the antibiotics and added hormones that can sometimes be found in commercial meat. Antibiotics prevent bacterial growth in animals during breeding, while added hormones help to accelerate animal growth. These chemicals benefit meat production, but can also be dangerous to consumers if they’re present in too-high a concentration. HPLC helps to ensure that levels stay within safe limits.
3. Keeping Tabs on Finished Products with HPLC Training
While chemical additives do offer health and safety benefits to meat, food, and drink production, many others are instead used to increase a product’s consumer appeal.
Synthetic food colouring, for example, is often used to increase the acceptability and general appeal of processed foods like cheeses, cereals, and candy. Natural and artificial flavourings or sweeteners are used as a cost-effective way to enhance a food products’ taste. Preservatives and antioxidants are often added to extend a product’s shelf life.
“Such chemicals increase competitiveness and profit margins,” explains food chemist Christine Miller. But, as in the cases mentioned above, she confirms: “if the amounts consumed exceed certain limits, some of these chemicals may prove harmful to humans.”
That’s why HPLC’s impact on the food and drink industry doesn’t end when products hit store shelves. Although these food items are technically finished products, potential changes in their chemistry make it possible for new contaminants to emerge. Every brand of item you can find for purchase in a grocery store also gets sampled and tested in intervals throughout its shelf life, so HPLC professionals can continue to keep consumers safe.
Are you interested in doing this important and meaningful work?
Visit AAPS to sign up for your first HPLC courses.