Industry Insights · 21min read
Wholesale Ingredient Food Safety Tests & Labels
Take a closer look at the information you can expect to have access to when ordering organic wholesale ingredients online in Europe.
What is the HACCP?
In 1993, the European Commission (EC) adopted the guidelines for the application of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system as a system for member states’ food safety management. The HACCP outlines a methodology comprising seven basic steps which maximise food safety along the supply chain—corporate responsibility, traceability, official food controls, the precautionary principle, independent scientific risk assessment, separation of risk assessment and risk management, and transparent risk communication. Stringent food safety testing and labelling regulations form the backbone of these steps. As a result, the EU has one of the most advanced food safety systems in the world today.
What Food Safety Information, Tests & Labels Does foodcircle Provide?
At foodcircle, we receive official certificates of analysis from our suppliers for every ingredient we sell. While the content of the individual certificates and the scope of the respective analyses differs from product to product, our product specifications always contain:
The batch number/best-before-date
Information about the physical & organoleptic parameters
Basic nutritional information
A basic microbiological/chemical analysis
The organic certificate
Some of the more extensive product certificates for ingredients in our portfolio also encompass more detailed info, such as:
Heavy metal analysis
Foreign body declarations
While a selection of this information can be viewed and downloaded for each ingredient on the respective product description page (PDP), as our customer, you are given full access to all available certificates for ingredients you purchase on our website. Below you will find more background information and details about the different information that is made available to you to help you better comprehend our wholesale ingredient product specifications.
Batch numbers (sometimes also referred to as ‘lot numbers’) on food products are a requirement by EU law to ensure full traceability. These divulge information about the food such as the food producer, manufacturer, packager or first seller in the EU and the approval number of the processing facility.
The BBD reflects the latest recommended consumption date, which was introduced to reduce food waste while still protecting consumers’ health. It is different from the ‘use-by’ date in that the BBD refers to a food’s minimum durability whereas the use-by date implies that a food is no longer safe for consumption after a certain date. On our website, we list the ‘shelf life’ of our products on the respective PDPs to give our customers a feel for the durability of our wholesale ingredients. The exact BBD differs between batch numbers and depends on the date the product was packaged. Under EU law, in cases where the BBD is provided, it is not mandatory to add the batch/lot number as the BBD allows the foods to be traced back to their original lots.
Physical and Organoleptic Parameters
All suppliers are required to provide details about the physical and organoleptic parameters of their products. These refer to ingredients’ taste, smell, appearance, and texture. At foodcircle, in addition to providing this information in the downloadable product specifications, we always list these in a brief overview on the individual PDPs to help our customers establish whether our ingredients suit their specific needs.
In chemical analyses of foods, laboratories look at foods’ chemical composition and structure. This field of testing covers a broad spectrum, and individual types of tests can measure everything from foods’ nutritional composition and allergens to potential toxins and pesticides (more information is provided below).
These laboratory analyses measure the microorganisms present in foods using biological, biochemical, molecular detection and identification. Laboratories can conduct a wide range of Total Plate Count (TPC) analyses in which assess the levels of mould, yeast, and bacteria in foods. Depending on the product, this can include everything from salmonella and escherichia coli to aflatoxins or ochratoxins, to aerobic plate counts. Some research institutes, such as Campden BRI, not only conduct microbiological analysis in foodstuffs for pathogens and spoilage organisms, but also for indicator organisms, namely those which serve as indicators for potential contaminants or issues along the supply chain.
Note: If you would like to request additional or specific laboratory tests for any of the ingredients in our portfolio, please reach out to our Sales Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further assistance.
In the EU, regulations require that pre-packaged foods are presented to customers with a so-called nutrition declaration, which includes information about the energy, protein, fat, saturated fat, sugars, and salt. In retail, this information is printed on the packaging of the respective foodstuffs to make it easy for consumers to access. In wholesale, it must be presented to the customer in written form—hence, at foodcircle, we compile this information in the respective product specification which is available for download after purchase for every product in our portfolio. Some of our suppliers also provide information about the levels of mono-unsaturates, polyunsaturates, polyols, starch, fibre, vitamins and minerals on a voluntary basis.
It is no secret that food allergies are on the rise in western countries, thereby leading to the increasing importance of allergen analysis and declarations. In accordance with the Codex Alimentarius General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Food and the European Commission’s Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, the declaration of allergens is mandatory for the following 14 ingredients: cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soybeans, milk, tree nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, lupin, and molluscs. Many suppliers in the health food industry choose to explicitly highlight when their products are gluten-free to provide an extra layer of reassurance and underline this unique selling point as a means of catering to rising consumer health trends and intolerances.
Heavy Metals Analyses
The European Commission defines and regulates the maximum limits for heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium, that have the potential to be hazardous to human health. These metals are usually absorbed into plants as a result of water and soil contamination of crops. To highlight one example from the cocoa industry, cadmium is a toxic heavy metal that occurs in many cocoa plantations naturally as a result of forest fires or volcanic activity. When consumed in high quantities, cadmium, which is also classified as a carcinogen, can have harmful effects on consumers’ kidneys, lungs and bones. Thus for chocolate, the EC defines maximum levels of cadmium depending on the cocoa mass in the final product, starting at 0.1 mg/kg for milk chocolate with <30% cocoa and 0.6 mg/kg for cocoa powder.
Any food that is cultivated, processed, stored, or prepared comes in contact with materials known as Food Contact Materials (FCMs). The term FCM includes everything from the machines used to harvest and process the plants to the packaging materials the final ingredients are concealed and shipped in. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is the body responsible for evaluating, defining, and regulating all FCMs in Europe. Meanwhile, the European Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Materials (EURL-FCM) defines the respective scientific testing methods. Independent bodies and scientific labs, such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, subsequently review the respective materials and ensure FCM compliance with Commission Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004. The general requirements of the regulation state that FCMs may not endanger human health, bring about an unacceptable change in the composition of the food, or bring about a deterioration in the organoleptic characteristics thereof.
The levels of pesticides present in foods are measured and determined by Pesticide Residue Testing. Depending on the testing facility, these tests cover everything from fungicides and herbicides to insecticides, molluscicides, and rodenticides. The maximum residual level (MRL) of any given pesticide is defined in the European Commission's MRL database. The Commission defines each MRL based on consumer health and safety. Ultimately, producers utilising pesticides in the cultivation of ingredients are encouraged to work to minimise their use as much as possible.
The use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is prohibited in organic production and products throughout the EU. Thus, ingredients which are certified as EU-organic have inevitably been reviewed and approved by an independent certification body, thereby ensuring their GM-free nature. Nevertheless, some suppliers still choose to provide customers with so-called GM-free labels voluntarily to underline this USP and provide full transparency.
Foreign Body Declaration
A widely accepted definition for foreign bodies in foods is, “an object which can be seen by the unaided eye or felt in the mouth, and which the consumer perceives as being alien to the food”. In some cases, foreign bodies reveal themselves as clear cases of contaminants, such as in the event of the presence of pieces of metal or glass. In others, a reference to ‘foreign bodies’ or ‘impurities’ may simply refer to parts of the original plant from which the ingredient was derived, such as stems or hulls. Foreign body contamination remains one of the most prevalent sources of complaints filed by consumers in our food industry today, with costly implications for manufacturers and producers. As a result, some suppliers choose to provide customers with a voluntary Foreign Body Declaration to underline the stringent measures undertaken to monitor and prevent foreign bodies. In cases where natural impurities, such as seeds, may be present in a specific ingredient, information about maximum levels is also provided.
Halal & Kosher Labels
Foods which are certified Halal meet Muslim dietary requirements and are produced in accordance with Islamic law. Kosher certified foods, on the other hand, have been produced in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.
For more details and information, please refer to the individual certificates on our product pages. Our team is always happy to initiate additional laboratory testing for ingredients in our catalogue at your request.
Imagery: (1) This is Engineering, (3) Bee Naturalles, (4) Chuttersnap & (5) The Creative Exchange vis unsplash.com; (2) foodcircle.com