Tailgate Analysis for the Win!

clipart2522913_revised.pngFall has arrived and football season is in full swing, which means…IT’S TAILGATE TIME! Like a head coach, many put a lot of thought and strategy into pulling off the perfect tailgate. What does this entail? Meat on the grill with all the fixings, spirits and soft drinks in Solo cups, water for hydration, and sweet treats to polish it all off.

In the fun of socialization and celebration, most don’t consider that there was a pre-game to the pre-game. Just like a great defensive line protecting the goal, laboratories all over the world run samples to test for different analytes, ensuring food and beverage safety and quality. Let’s examine our tailgate spread and see what kind of chemical analysis takes place long before you bite into that juicy hot dog or take a swig of that ice cold beer…

Nitrogen/Protein Analysis
A great burger needs a great bun. We rely on the Dumas principle for nitrogen/protein analysis in starch. Unlike the Kjeldahl method, which requires a lengthy, high-temperature digestion of starch samples in sulfuric acid, the Dumas method quickly provides accurate results via combustion of the sample. Check out the case study Dumas Nitrogen Determination: Fast and Cost-efficient Nitrogen/Protein Analysis for Starch for more information.

Fat Analysis
Fire up the grill and throw the meat on! But first…let’s talk more about fat analysis. While total fat is a crucial measurement in food analytics, it can be a grueling process with variations in reproducibility across matrices depending upon the methodologies employed. Multiple AOAC methodologies testing for fat, incorporate acid or alkaline hydrolysis to accomplish a total release of fat from various products followed by total fat extraction by mixed ethers. A less labor-intensive alternative is an automated, fully-enclosed acid hydrolysis system known as the HYDROTHERM. Learn more by reading the poster Determining Total Fat Content by Automated Acid Hydrolysis (HYDROTHERM), co-authored by Tyson Foods, WBA Analytical Laboratories, and Gerhardt Analytical Systems.

clipart111787.pngSodium Chloride Analysis
Longing for a cheeseburger in paradise or chili cheese dog prior to kick-off? Cheese, as well as, mustard, ketchup and a number of other condiments must be analyzed for sodium chloride to ensure optimal salt and acidity levels. Titration is a proven technique that is widely used in the food and beverage industry, as well as other applications. Similar to fat analysis, manual titration can be painstakingly time consuming and is subject to human error. Automating titration can greatly increase repeatability and free up a laboratory technician’s time to complete other tasks. Learn more in SI Analytics’ application note Determination of Chloride/Sodium Chloride in Food Samples.

Lactate & Ethanol Analysis
“Please pass the ketchup if the lactate levels are higher than 50 ppm (mg/L),” said no one at a tailgate ever. Unless we notice ketchup is past its expiration date, we rarely question whether it will taste good when we squeeze it out of the bottle. We are rather spoiled because L-lactate and ethanol analysis are done for us, so we don’t have to be concerned with ketchup spoilage. In the manufacturing and packaging of ketchup and related tomato products, both lactate and ethanol concentrations can be used to quantify microbial testing of ingredients, in-process and finished products. Learn more about this process and related studies by reading the poster Simultaneous Measurement of L-Lactate and Ethanol in Tomato-Based Products, co-authored by YSI Life Sciences and Heinz. 

clipart497598.pngSugar Analysis
Before you take a swig of that Dr. Pepper or a bite of that brownie, let’s talk refractometry. Refractometers, such as Bellingham + Stanley’s RFM series are widely used in the soft drink and confectionery industries for quality control. This type of analysis is used in instances where sugar is (typically) the dissolved content. Refractometry employs the Brix scale (0-95 Brix or % sugar), which is universally recognized as the parameters to measure consistency. This scale assigns a predicted value to many foods and beverages as a simple way to analyze product quality. Refractometers quickly and easily measure the sugar in carbonated beverages an fruit juices. Diet soft drinks can be a bit tricky, as they contain sugar substitutes such as saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose, so using a refractometer may not be ideal and could yield a 10% error. That is why most beverage manufacturers use an automated titrator, such as the SI Analytics TitroLine 7000, for diet soft drinks.  In this case, many producers will use total acidity as the base line because most diet beverages will have an acid content to target. Check out the application note Precise Control Benefits, Beverage Producers Profitability for more information.

Alcohol Analysis
Cheers! Here’s to making sure that spirit you’re about to swallow hit the lab before it hit your cup. Why? Alcohol is monitored by many parameters in the laboratory to ensure quality and consistency. Things like alcohol content, calories, and salt and sugar levels are all factors that can greatly affect the end product. In the USA, local microbrews are a steadily increasing trend. Quality control can become extremely expensive because laboratory instruments used in alcohol analysis can be pricey for a small shop. Learn more about a unique co-op fashioned business model some microbrew owners are taking advantage of by reading the blog post A Brewing Analysis: Can small breweries maintain BIG flavor?    

clipart65481.pngTotal Bound Nitrogen and TOC Analysis
Just like the football team, it’s important for tailgaters to stay well hydrated with, as Adam Sandler in the film The Waterboy would say, “High quality H2O.” Analyzing for total bound nitrogen (TNb), which consists of dissolved ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, amines and other nitrogen-containing compounds provides a quick, safe, cost-effective and accurate alternative to Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (TKN) analysis for drinking water (and other water applications). TNb analysis can be performed simultaneously with total organic carbon (TOC) analysis by using detectors selective for nitrogen and carbon in tandem. Read the application note Simultaneous Determination of Total Bound Nitrogen (TNb) and Total Organic Carbon (TOC) in Aqueous Samples to learn more.

Of course, these are just a few of the analyses the food and beverage industry utilizes for monitoring food safety and quality control. Be sure to check back with us, as we are continually adding new information to our site. In the game of analysis, keeping a comprehensive play book helps ensure a winning performance!

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