Playing with Food - Testing Companies and Reference Labs Upgrade Diagnostics to Meet Demand

Playing with Food - Testing Companies and Reference Labs Upgrade Diagnostics to Meet Demand

“Oh my, what’s in this?” is often a complimentary inquiry after sampling from one’s plate, but has become a loaded - and lucrative - question further up the supply chain. Industry food safety testing is not only intensifying - with the implementation of new regulation in North America and abroad - but also growing more complex in response to compounding threats to food safety and brand stability. Labs are racing to improve their advanced testing capabilities and address consumer concerns relating to food authenticity and GMO ingredients.

Kalorama Information projected 2013 market growth for molecular diagnostics in food safety at nearly 20%. Market growth for any top-level segment in IVD at or above 20% has been rare in recent years; once-booming clinical segments such as histology and molecular IVD have been hit hard by reimbursement cuts and have tapered in growth naturally through increased penetration and market maturity. Global food safety testing is not bound to these limits and restrictions. In fact, regulatory reform, notably the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the United States, has driven demand for complex testing among the largest food industry players.

Contract testing organization and commercial labs spent the last year adopting or improving their molecular capabilities in food testing. Eurofins, looking to maintain its market dominance in Europe, rapidly deployed DNA testing resources throughout Europe in response to horse meat contamination scandals. Food speciation test kits, once a niche market for the identification of pork, beef or fish species in meat, became a front-line market in light of the horsemeat scandal, but more importantly are likely to see sustained demand with broader concerns over food authenticity in global trade.

Molecular diagnostics are also used to identify genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply and genetically modified (GM) product ingredients. Immunodiagnostics can be applied in select cases of GMO testing, though analyte identification and test kit development proceed through sequencing. In the past year, Eurofins invested in next generation sequencing (NGS) to develop new protocols for molecular testing of contaminated, adulterated, and modified foods.

Other testing companies have followed suit: Exova recently announced investment in PCR analyzers to expand its food safety testing capabilities in speciation; Intertek opened a comprehensive food testing facility in the United Kingdom in March 2014 to improve turnaround times for major industry clients; and Leatherhead Food Research opened a laboratory in the United Kingdom with dedicated groups for allergen and speciation testing. Faced with a deluge of demand, food testing labs have worked to rapidly expand their capabilities in 2013-2014 and in turn are working to fuel extraordinary growth in the food safety diagnostics market.

For more information regarding the food safety diagnostics market and food safety testing trends - all from an IVD perspective - please consult Kalorama Information’s title Food Safety Diagnostics, the World Market.