Testing of Food & Food Products
The National Centre of Food Science (NCFS) supports food supply and safety regulatory programmes through our testing and monitoring programmes to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of fresh food.
In addition, we continually develop our testing capabilities to keep pace with the challenges of, and to maintain vigilance against, newly emerging chemical and microbiological hazards that may be present in food.
Tests for Chemical Contaminants
Our range of capabilities includes tests for:
- Toxic metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and tin) in seafood and other marine products, offal, processed meat, canned food and water. We employ rapid microwave digestion and acid digestion systems, and analysis using atomic absorption spectrophotometers and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) using gas chromatograph (GC);
- Chloropropanols like 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol (3-MCPD) and 1,3-dichloropropanol (1,3-DCP) using gas chromatograph / mass spectrometer (GC/MS);
- Acrylamide using liquid chromatograph / mass spectrometer / mass spectrometer (LC/MS/MS);
We conduct confirmation tests for a range of chemical contaminants and residues using LC/MS/MS and GC/MS.
Tests for Nutritional Components, Food Additives & Preservatives
Our testing capabilities cover food and feed nutritional components, food additives and preservatives as well as freshness indicators. These include:
- Nutritional Components:
- Fat, protein, sugars, starch, fibre, ash, moisture, gross energy, salt, and total meat content, amino acids, fatty acids including omega-3, cholesterol, vitamins A; B and C, and essential minerals
- Food additives and preservatives:
Nitrite and nitrate in processed meat; benzoic, sorbic and boric acids; added colours; Polyphosphates and parabens; sulphur dioxide and formaldehyde
- Freshness indicators:
Total volatile nitrogen, trimethylamine and indole, rancidity tests - peroxide value, free fatty acids and thiobarbituric acid
Tests for Drug Residues
We test for residues of antibiotics, growth promotants and other veterinary drugs in meat, fishery products (cultured), dairy, eggs and animal feed. These include compounds banned from use in livestock production.
The safety limits (maximum residue limits) are based on international standards.
Our range of capabilities covers the following:
Microbial inhibition assay for antibiotics
- Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for beta-agonists, antibiotics and growth promotants
- High performance liquid chromatography or LC/MS/MS for nitrofurans, coccidiostats and other antibiotics
Tests for Pesticide Residues
Our laboratory is designated as the National Reference Centre for pesticide residue testing in food. Since 2004, we have also been recognized as the ASEAN Reference Laboratory for Pesticide Residues Analysis under the EC-ASEAN Economic Cooperation Programme on Standards, Quality and Conformity Assessment.
We provide analytical support to regulatory programmes to ensure that locally produced and imported primary produce is pesticide safe. We also provide pesticide testing services for export health certification and quality control programmes.
Our test capabilities cover a broad range of fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and growth regulators. These include organochlorine and organophosphorous pesticides, pyrethroids, carbamates and chlorophenoxy acetic acids.
We test vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, dairy, grains, water and other processed food products. We use multi-residue screening methods to cover the widest possible range of chemical compounds.
Tests for Food Microbiology
We conduct microbiological examination of fresh and processed meat, fish, dairy, other primary produce and water for quality and safety.
We employ rapid methods and automation for detection, identification and enumeration of food-borne pathogens and microbiological hygiene indicators.
We use rapid test kits, selective media, immunoassays and gene technology to detect food-borne pathogens. These cover common and emerging food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrios, Yersinia, Clostridium, Campylobacter, Listeria, Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci.
Our state-of-the-art equipment includes spiral plater and laser colony counter for enumeration of micro-organisms, Bactometer system, VITEK automated microbial identification system, VITEK Immuno-Diagnostic Assay System and molecular biology systems using Polymerase Chain Reaction techniques with Pulse-field Gel Electrophoresis, DNA Sequencer and Riboprinter.
Tests for Foodborne Parasites
We conduct examinations for parasite in seafood, meat, and other primary produce in support of import control and export health certification programmes.
The range of organisms covers protozoan parasites as well as nematodes, cestodes, and trematodes. Major foodborne parasites of concern include:
- Trichinella spiralis
- Cysticercus cellulosae and Cysticercus bovis
Tests on Food Physical Quality
We conduct canned food evaluations to determine the integrity of the can seams and identify defective products to complement inspection of locally produced and imported products.
We perform tests on food authenticity to prevent economic fraudulence of consumers. These include:
- Identification of species of origin of raw meat, processed meat products and fish using isoelectric-focusing electrophoresis and gene PCR analysis methods
- Differentiation of real and imitation sharkfin using chemical and microscopic methods
- Differentiation of fresh or chilled meat from thawed frozen meat
We also perform organoleptic evaluation and food physical quality tests such as pH, water activity, colour and extraneous matter and filth.
Tests for Foodborne Toxins
We screen and detect toxins in food and animal feedstuff for import control and export health certification. We use sensitive and rapid methods for the foodborne toxin analysis.
Our range of analytical capabilities covers the following types of toxins:
- Mycotoxins which include aflatoxins B and G in grains and nuts, aflatoxin M in milk, Patulin in apple juice, and Ochratoxins A.
- Marine biotoxins produced by toxigenic strains of algae (Red Tide), which can accumulate in fish and shellfish. These toxins include Paralytic Shellfish Poison (saxitoxin), Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison (Okadaic acid), and Amnesic Shellfish Poison (Domoic acid).
- Bacterial toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus in food.
- Other natural toxicants or allergens such as histamine in scombroid fish.
Testing Capability in Molecular Biology & GMO Analyses
We have capability in molecular biology (using PCR) for detection of various foodborne pathogens (Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E and Noroviruses).
PCR capability for the detection and quantification of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are also available. We have the capability to detect the 5 specific types of GMOs: Roundup Ready™ soy, Mazimizer™ Bt-176 corn, Bt-11 corn, YieldGard Mon810 corn and StarLink™ corn, and to quantify the amount of Roundup Ready™ soybean (Monsanto) and Bt-11 corn (Syngenta Seeds) in food products.
The PCR based methodology can also identify species that a food product / specimen is derived from (e.g. Identification of the source of hairs, skin tissue, blood smears, gelatine