LABORATORY CAPABILITIES

Most food manufacturers perform a certain amount of testing to ensure that their products meet specifications like sugar level, thickness, weight etc. Few jam companies maintain a laboratory like Crofter’s, capable of analytical chemistry, microscopy, and microbiology.
We surpass the basic testing requirements and manufacturing parameters for making good jam by also maintaining equipment and a science staff which allows us to test antioxidant levels, identify yeast and mould, measure chemical residue, measure vitamin content, and more…the list is long !

Chromatography

In 1990 Crofters installed a state-of-the-art Gas Chromatograph, allowing us to detect agricultural pesticides in the organic fruit ingredients. At the time organic certification programs were still voluntary, and while the absence of pesticides in fruit does not confirm it is 100% organic, the ability to detect pesticides helped us keep our suppliers honest and today helps us ensure that we meet organic regulations and federal food safety rules.

Chromatography is an analytical method used to separate and identify mixtures of substances. Think about a jar of marbles which are different sizes and colours.  Looking at the jar, we see a mass of marbles, but can’t really see the details: how many different sizes, colours, etc.  If we poured the marbles through a series of sieves with different sized openings the marbles will be separated based on size.  We can then easily count them and then identify colours. Similarly, different chromatographic techniques separate and identify substances in fruit, water, soil, plants etc. Crofters uses a number of different of chromatography techniques to determine food quality, safety and nutrition.


UPLC MS/MS (Ultra High Pressure Liquid Chromatography)
Ultra High pressure liquid chromatography separates the components of liquids such as fruit juice, water, plant extracts, and even jam extracts.  By forcing the liquid through a small tube packed with tiny beads under pressures as high as 14,000 psi, molecules in the liquid become separated and can be identified as they exit the tube.

In the fall of 2012 our inner science geek got very excited. Our first Gas Chromatograph from 1990 was superseded by the next state-of-the-art machine – a UPLC MS/MS liquid chromatograph. The acronyms aren’t important, just know that this is high tech science that allows us to detect as many as 400 different pesticides to a concentration as tiny as 0.003 parts per million. We can also use the UPLC MS/MS to test for vitamins and assess other nutritional qualities of foods.

As the debate if organic foods are “better” or healthier than conventional foods Crofters now has a serious tool to help substantiate our belief that organic is better.

This amazing upgrade comes with a price tag equivalent to a modest house, so you can see that we do take our science very seriously.


HPLC (High pressure liquid chromatography)
Crofters maintains a slightly older liquid chromatograph to monitor aspects of specific ingredients like tartaric acid content in the grape juice concentrate used to sweeten our Just Fruit Spreads.  If there is too much tartaric acid, crystals can form in the jam. Careful monitoring of our raw materials helps us maintain the perfect setting fruit spread.

We also use this equipment to measure the amounts of sucrose, glucose and fructose in our spreads.  Being able to complete this work in-house has been invaluable in helping us understand the differences in sugar chemistry of different fruits, and how this relates to Glycemic Index ratings (GI – the rate at which your body digests sugar) and calorie declaration.

Through our research we have concluded that knowing the GI of a food is important, but how much of a food you eat is actually more important, since this determines how much sugar your body has to digest.

Understanding that Crofter’s fruit spreads have 30 calories per serving (tbsp) compared to a traditional jam that has 50 calories per serving is a good way to avoid a few of those calories.


Paper Chromatography
In the spring of 2013, Crofters produced the first Demeter Certified fruit spread in North America.  Demeter certified products originated in Europe in the early 1900’s and were the  first type of organic product in the world which was produced to a set of defined rules. Demeter is the gold standard as it is the most complete, comprehensive “organic” standard.  As part of our philosophy of validation, Crofters is using paper chromatography for the quality assessment of Demeter raw materials and finished products. A finished paper chromatogram is evaluated based on the colours and shapes which develop when a liquid extract of a test material (for example fruit or fruit spreads) is applied to a special chromatographic paper.  The liquid spreads through the paper and the separating components in the liquid create patterns which relate to the products quality characteristics.  The finished chromatogram presents a visual, aura-like, representation of the qualitative aspects of the tested product.

Learn more about Demeter

 
 
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