We also have our weekly look at the global dairy markets with Liam Fenton at StoneX.
Mettler-Toledo’s updates ProdX inspection software
Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection has released an updated version of its ProdX product inspection management software.
Based on Industry 4.0 principles of secure machine-to-machine communication, and in preparation for connectivity to the latest data-protective Blockchain technology, ProdX delivers full digital track and trace and real-time food safety compliance.
Specific enhancements include: Security features, such as enhanced password rules to enforce the use of strong passwords that must be centrally verified by the software; Security across firewalls, with enhanced Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture (OPC UA) encrypted machine-to-machine communication, including tags for performance test results, shared with high-end systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution System (MES); automatically logged performance test data to fulfil food-safety regulations; full support for batch changeovers, which means an individual product can be automatically traced via its unique serial number; and a testing regime for product inspection, ensuring due diligence and compliant performance.
“Food manufacturers are under increasing pressure to satisfy stringent food safety rules and regulations. The growing need for continuous real-time monitoring of food safety compliance will force a cultural attitude change in how manufacturers implement food safety measures,” said Peter Spring, head of product development for ProdX, Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection.
“ProdX enables manufacturers to get ahead of these requirements and operate a cost-effective digital solution that provides real-time food compliance, digital traceability and full integrity of data, as well as complete product inspection management. The need for digital food track and traceability is coming – the latest version of our proprietary software ensures that manufacturers are ready for it right now.”
Enhanced security features ensure food manufacturers can demonstrate full accountability and transparency, with individual password control, centrally verified and linked to each machine operator or team leader’s role and access privileges. Data is automatically captured and is tamper-proof within ProdX 2.4, including metadata, i.e. when, who, where and what was inspected, guaranteeing the integrity of the data in the system.
Instead of manual data input and box ticking, measures such as regular compliance performance tests can be automated, and the results are logged digitally without human intervention. This testing regime means food manufacturers can prove, with the correct documentation, their product inspection equipment has continued to meet compliant performance standards throughout production, at the batch level, or even individual item level.
New regulations and standards on compliance and transparency in the food industry supply chain – for example, the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new rules on digital track and trace – make the ability to quickly and accurately track and trace batches of food products more important than ever, the company said.
Spring added, “Food manufacturers must be ready for these changes and digital technology provides the answer. Implementing such a digital transformation on their own can be expensive. It also requires sound planning. Mettler-Toledo’s ProdX product inspection management system is ready to go now and is continually developing to keep ahead of evolving food safety compliance requirements.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need for greater digital food safety monitoring, with onsite access for auditing often restricted. Product inspection management software such as ProdX enables a proportion of current onsite checks to be handled digitally. In addition, it continuously monitors critical control point data down to batch levels for full track and trace capabilities and, in the event of a product recall, for quick product retrieval.
Consider Bardwell Farm back in business
Consider Bardwell Farm has restarted its Vermont-based cheesemaking operations, with a focus on sustainably producing small batch, aged cow’s milk cheeses.
The products are now for sale at retail outlets and farmer’s markets, as well as through the company’s new e-commerce shop.
During the past year, Consider Bardwell Farm has not only revamped its food safety systems and protocols and made renovations to its production facility, but also the company has fine-tuned its business model and prioritized its objectives, with sustainability at the forefront of all decisions and processes.
Today, operating on a smaller scale by limiting production uniquely to cow’s milk cheese, Consider Bardwell Farm’s cheesemaker is again handcrafting the company’s cheeses, made solely from Jersey cow’s milk.
The cheeses are: Pawlet, crafted with raw milk and aged a minimum of three months; Dorset, a pasteurized washed-rind cheese, in a 3/4-lb. square format; and Rupert, a raw milk, Alpine-style cheese aged beyond its usual 12 months.
“We’re committed more than ever to crafting the best cheese possible all while acting as good stewards of the land,” Consider Bardwell Farm co-owner, Angela Miller, said.
“While we initially shut down operations in September 2019 due to a voluntary food safety recall, it was the occasion to take a step back and reassess our business with a more critical eye. Now we’re focused on producing aged Jersey cow’s milk cheeses and reaching those who really appreciate handcrafted, small batch cheese.”
Miller said as consumers increasingly rely on e-commerce, a new online store enables the company to connect directly with customers, as well as selling other local products to support the Vermont artisan food-producing community.
Research helps cheese producers reduce waste
Cheese could be ripened for months or even years before a problem is discovered, an issue that could cause it to be sold off cheaply as an ingredient for processed cheese.
New research from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia allows quality to be checked much earlier and more precisely in the process, giving manufacturers a better chance to react to issues during ripening.
Dr Roya Afshari said the team devised a method to expose cheese's biomarkers - or fingerprints - to show unique combinations of things like chemicals and milk-derived components that make up the perfect block.
"Once we know the chemical profile of a successful cheese, we can compare it to new batches as soon as 30 days into the ageing process," she said.
"It's like a pregnancy screening test for cheese - we analyze the biological data early in the development to see if there are any red flags. This could be done alongside traditional analyses like tasting to highlight future potential problems."
The team looked at different commercial Cheddar cheeses in Australia and applied multi-omics - a kind of biological analysis typically used in human medicine to detect diseases early.
Researchers studied the biological make up of different brands and grades of cheese and worked with data experts to interpret and compare the results for known batches.
"Once we knew the unique properties of a finished cheese, we compared them to ripening batches and worked out which compounds distinguished the best cheeses," Afshari said.
With larger datasets, it will be possible for these techniques to let manufacturers know if their batch will age properly, because they can check to see if the key compounds have developed early in the ripening process or, just as importantly, that the bad ones haven't.
Afshari said incorporating multi-omics analysis into testing cheese gives professional cheese graders more tools to accurately assess for quality.
"Cheese chemical fingerprints can be compared against those found in the perfect product, along with traditional grading methods. Now we can identify different types and grades of cheese more accurately than a taste test."
The researchers have published three recent studies demonstrating how interpreting the biological profile of cheese can aid manufacturing and grading.
In separate studies, they used multi-omics analyses to differentiate Cheddar cheeses based on their age and brand, compare cheese of varying quality, and group artisanal and industrial Cheddar cheeses based on type and brand.
The method devised by the RMIT team is scalable and, with more development, could be used to test just about any food or beverage product, including wine, for quality and authenticity.
Chief supervisor of the research, Professor Harsharn Gill, said the days of counterfeit food and drink products could be numbered, as bioanalysis technology becomes commercially available.
"Some products’ fingerprints are so unique and detailed that we can narrow down a sample to its origin," he said.
"Clues like the type of grapes used to the fermenting process can be answered by studying wine and comparing results to a trusted sample. We're still a long way off from having the technology affordable and therefore widely accessible but we're open to working with industry using facilities in the RMIT Food Research and Innovation Centre.
"As new tools become available, we'll have more power to inspect and interpret chemical data from food from many different angles, leading to more sustainable manufacturing.”
Frontiers in Microbiology
Microbiota and metabolite profiling combined with integrative analysis for differentiating cheeses of varying ripening ages
Biomarkers associated with cheese quality uncovered by integrative multi-omic analysis
New insights into cheddar cheese microbiota-metabolome relationships revealed by integrative analysis of multi-omics data