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Testing for Spice Blends


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#1 AW1488

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Posted 29 May 2019 - 03:01 PM

Hi!

 

I recently started a position as QA Manager for a seasoning/spice company.  We cater to making spice blends for the meat industry but also have our own retail spices that we sell.  Currently there is no analytical testing conducted on our blends.  I was wondering if there were any types of testing that we should be doing?  No one at the company seems to think we need anything ("we have been doing this for 50 years") but it seems odd to me that we have no way to confirm the blend is correct other then a visual check next to an old retain sample.  Any thoughts appreciated!  



#2 rccz

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Posted 29 May 2019 - 04:06 PM

Hi,

 

I previously worked for a spice manufacturing company. it is common to not have too many analytical tests. This is for a number of reasons:

1. unlike lots of other products, the chemical makeup is usually pretty standard as spices come directly from an organic plant source.

2. spices (if processed properly) tend to have a moisture content too low to harbor microbes and they usually are not an attractant to pests.

3. the spice is used for aromatic and flavor properties so testing for physical parameters such as color (other than visual inspection) is not necessary.

 

As a good QA manager, due diligence is important in the food industry and it's great that you are inquisitive. 

While I mentioned the moisture content is supposed to be low enough to prevent microbial growth, you can still ensure this is maintained by (1) conducting environment humidity tests and (2) conducting random moisture-content tests and recording the data (you can send to a lab).

Allergens are a good topic to look in to as spices have the propensity to cause dust pollution or contaminate other products or other spices in the environment.

 

You can go the extra mile and ensure the hygiene of the equipment you are using to process your spices are up to code as far as food safety and hygiene are involved.

 

Hoping this helps.

 

Ren



#3 AW1488

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Posted 29 May 2019 - 04:24 PM

Thank you!  Appreciate the feedback.  I discovered that they do test moisture content of the blends after the fact but no one really checks the results.  It is currently logged on a notepad that has been going for about 2 years, so got to work on that data a little bit.  How did your company address shelf life?  I keep finding mixed information on that subject too.  I have spoken with a couple of our suppliers and they are basing all their shelf lives on quality standards such as paprika only has a 6 month shelf life for color.  We are taking paprika and using it in our blends and putting a 3 year best by date on it based on the low food safety risk.  Do most spice companies lean towards best by dates for food safety aspects or quality aspects?



#4 kfromNE

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Posted 29 May 2019 - 04:59 PM

https://www.astaspice.org/ - is a great resource.

 

Thank you!  Appreciate the feedback.  I discovered that they do test moisture content of the blends after the fact but no one really checks the results.  It is currently logged on a notepad that has been going for about 2 years, so got to work on that data a little bit.  How did your company address shelf life?  I keep finding mixed information on that subject too.  I have spoken with a couple of our suppliers and they are basing all their shelf lives on quality standards such as paprika only has a 6 month shelf life for color.  We are taking paprika and using it in our blends and putting a 3 year best by date on it based on the low food safety risk.  Do most spice companies lean towards best by dates for food safety aspects or quality aspects?

 

As for shelf-life. It will be a matter of quality for most spices. Over time, they'll lose their potency/flavor. The company that I work for puts a best by date of 2 years though if someone calls and asks - we'll tell them it is a quality issue. Note the blend we make does have a decent amount of salt (13% per serving so biological food safety risk is lower).



#5 AW1488

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Posted 29 May 2019 - 05:30 PM

Ok yes I haven't made it to breaking down each blend for content yet, still sorting through individual ingredients.  Did you conduct any shelf life studies to confirm the 2 years?  My company hopes to become SQF certified and part of the code states that shelf life trials where necessary shall be conducted to establish best by dates, micro, and consumer prep/handling requirements.  I guess they have been holding up on SQF because they are thinking that every blend will need the shelf life testing but I don't feel like that is really what the code is saying and if we establish that shelf life is for quality purposes then does a study need conducted?



#6 kfromNE

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Posted 29 May 2019 - 05:57 PM

Ok yes I haven't made it to breaking down each blend for content yet, still sorting through individual ingredients.  Did you conduct any shelf life studies to confirm the 2 years?  My company hopes to become SQF certified and part of the code states that shelf life trials where necessary shall be conducted to establish best by dates, micro, and consumer prep/handling requirements.  I guess they have been holding up on SQF because they are thinking that every blend will need the shelf life testing but I don't feel like that is really what the code is saying and if we establish that shelf life is for quality purposes then does a study need conducted?

 

We are in the process as well of becoming SQF certified as well. I'm not very knowledgeable on shelf-life studies so hopefully someone else can answer that however, the company I work for hired a consultant to determine a shelf-life study. This was done before I started so I'm not entirely sure what that process was.

 

We do however do micro testing on our blend. Our micro tests were mainly determined by our 3rd party lab. We do yeast/mold, aerobic plate count and enterobacteriaceae. As for consumer prep/handling - there will be none. All we have is that is an all purpose seasoning and rub.  In the food safety plan I have the same thing said but I also have a caveat that says: the product is considered ready-to-eat but can be used to marinate meat then cooked to the meat's proper cooking temperature. Probably not necessary but you never know.



#7 Charles.C

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 01:52 AM

I have a feeling that ASTA (post 4)(also see their free Spice manual ) might be somewhat shocked at some of the (archaic?) opening viewpoints in previous Posts.

The Industry sounds more like Witchcraft.

 

Ever heard of HACCP ? :biggrin:


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#8 kfromNE

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 06:46 PM

I have a feeling that ASTA (post 4)(also see their free Spice manual ) might be somewhat shocked at some of the (archaic?) opening viewpoints in previous Posts.

The Industry sounds more like Witchcraft.

 

Ever heard of HACCP ? :biggrin:

 

Good point on HACCP. That's a whole other thing that wasn't mentioned. In our HACCP plan, our only CCP is metal detection. Our product is gone through a metal detector twice (when blended and bottled). Our product testing and environmental monitoring among other things are part of our procedures/food safety management plan.



#9 kfromNE

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 06:57 PM

Another guidance document, I forgot to add from the FDA about pathogens and filth found in spices. 

 

https://www.fda.gov/...nd-filth-spices



#10 Hank Major

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 07:34 PM

I have a feeling that ASTA (post 4)(also see their free Spice manual ) might be somewhat shocked at some of the (archaic?) opening viewpoints in previous Posts.

The Industry sounds more like Witchcraft.

 

Ever heard of HACCP ? :biggrin:

 

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  ~~Arthur C. Clarke

 

"It's not stupid. It's advanced."  ~~Almighty Tallest Purple



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#11 FoodSafetyPlanet

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Posted 01 June 2019 - 02:33 AM

Hi AW,

 

Volhard method can help with composition by salt analysis; it is a fairly simple test you can do in-house. 

 

Are the spices added to the meat prior to USDA testing? This could be why they are so...lax. 



#12 cindyhaz

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 07:07 PM

Many years ago I worked in a spice company. We made seasoning blends for meat, packaged foods, food service etc. Every batch was tested for salt. We tested for moisture and insect fragments. Micro samples (TPC, yeast and mold, and others I can't remember) were routine for all incoming spices AND blends. Spices are notorious for bacteria because of the way they are harvested and dried all over the world. 






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