This article was first published in Western Food Processor Magazine, Winter 2021 edition.
Why Lateral Flow Devices are the “Just Right” of Detection Technology
We all know the story: Goldilocks waltzes into the Three Bears manufacturing facility on her first day as the new QA Manager. Right away, she notices that some things are too hot or too cold, too quick or too slow, too complicated or too simple. She’s not going to be happy until everything is “Just Right”.
How does she fix it? One good bet: she uses lateral flow devices (LFDs).
Today’s QA team has an abundance of detection technologies at their disposal – which is a very good thing, because today’s food safety regulations require lots of careful planning and documentation. Each method makes sense in some circumstances: sometimes visual inspection is enough; sometimes a sophisticated test requiring careful training, expensive equipment and/or several days is warranted.
Often, you can’t rely on your vendor’s COA paperwork or a visual inspection – but there’s neither time nor money to send things off for lab testing. In those cases, LFDs offer a quick and easy “Just Right” solution. While not all LFDs are created equal – and not all LFDs work in all environments – they are incredibly popular because they are generally easy, quick, and accurate. Unlike ELISAs, LFDs can be analyzed by eye. They provide a qualitative, detected/not detected answer that can help bolster confidence or alert you to an invisible problem.
One common context for LFDs is allergen detection. What can you do when ingredients come in from vendors with some risk? You can’t hold the delivery truck for days waiting for lab results.
Or, what do you do when changing over from a formulation with milk to a dairy-free recipe? Or if/when an allergenic ingredient spills in storage. Or when you’ve finished production but you want one last data point for protection – because you know labeling issues cause most allergen recalls.
If you have 20 minutes and $20, you have more than enough time and money to run a test like GlutenTox Pro or AlerTox Sticks Peanut. You’ll get the information you need and you can take your next steps accordingly.
Another increasingly common area for LFDs: protecting against raw meat food fraud. Visual inspection of raw ground meat cannot tell you if, for example, there is some horse or pork mixed into beef. And the clock is ticking – no time for sending things off to a lab. With a rapid test like our FlowThrough Raw Meat Speciation tests, product integrity can be confirmed in minutes.
A comprehensive food safety plan requires many solutions. If you need something quick, easy and accurate – have a look at lateral flow devices: you may find something “just right”.
Emily Kaufman, president of Emport LLC, has worked in food safety – specifically with LFDs – since 2011. With the help of her Canadian colleagues at Kettle Lakes Sales and Marketing, she offers the GlutenTox, AlerTox, and FlowThrough Meat product lines to food safety professionals in Canada and the United States.