What are the biggest food safety risks for plant-based foods in 2022? Strategies to address plant-based food safety gaps & protect your brandFood Industry
The alternative meat and dairy industries have experienced explosive growth in the past few years. Consumers are now increasingly seeking protein sources that they perceive as more sustainable, ethical, and healthier than animal proteins. The global plant-based food alternatives market is expected to reach USD 162 billion by 2030, and the Asia-Pacific region is expected to lead this growth with a share of USD 64 billion.Bloomberg 2021
The demand for meat alternatives has increased, and the food industry is responding. However, as product developers know, successful edible plant-based products do not come to life overnight. They often require months or years of trials and errors, and manufacturers also need to validate the safety of their formulations before heading to market. Further, claiming the complete absence of animal-derived ingredients can be a complex task, and analytical testing is often necessary.
What are the top food safety challenges for plant-based alternative products, and how to address them?
Plant-based foods present new challenges because food businesses are still unfamiliar with several novel plant-based ingredients. Due to the diversity of raw materials in plant-based proteins, spoilage risks are usually greater than in animal proteins. Hence, the development of novel food products requires thorough monitoring of food safety risks. As consumers continue to demand cleaner food free of heavy metals, pesticides and vertebrate DNA, manufacturers must take measures to ensure they deliver plant-based foods to market.
We have listed the top food safety risks for plant-based alternative producers and what control points can be applied:
- Microbial growth: Meat alternatives products have near-neutral pH and high protein and moisture content, making them susceptible to microbial growth. Extrusion treatment is one of the critical control points that promote the safety and shelf-life of the product.
- Cross-contamination from animal ingredients to plant-based foods: This is one of the challenges that vegan producers must consider across their whole supply chain. This risk is high in vegan food productions and particularly at manufacturing facilities that handle animal-derived allergenic ingredients such as milk, gluten and eggs. The presence of undeclared allergens of animal origin in vegan-labelled products can lead to serious health implications, costly recalls and irreparable reputational damage.
- Off-flavours in formulations: Off-flavours can appear during the processing of plant materials (for example, grassy and beany flavours from soybeans or bitter and astringent flavours from saponins and isoflavones). It’s necessary to formulate to mask or reduce the potency of these off-flavours.
- Shelf Life for alternative proteins: Formulation, reformulation, shelf-life studies, and process validation studies may be necessary to conduct to define the expiration dates and ensure the safety of new plant-based product services.
- Presence of contaminants: Heavy metals, pesticides, and hexane are often found in plant-based ingredients and soy isolates and must be tested to prove safety.
Tackle all plant-based products’ food safety risks with the right scientific advice
All plant-based food and beverage products must prove food safety compliance before being marketed locally and internationally. However, meeting commercial and regulatory requirements in the food industry can be a hard task without the support of a reliable third-party laboratory.
At Mérieux NutriSciences, we understand the complexities of plant-based food product development and have 50 years of experience supporting the food industry. We offer a wide range of services for food companies formulating with plant proteins. Our expert teams can conduct consumer sensory panels to evaluate the acceptance of the protein in the final product. Further, we can perform shelf-life studies to help understand the quality and safety of the product over time.
Analytical testing is an important tool to assess the quality of a plant-based product. We offer Protein Dispersibility Corrected Amino Acid Score testing, to evaluate the quality of a product based on its amino acid content. This method is also required for making protein content claims on a food label. These are just some highlights of our full suite of services for plant-based proteins.
Contact us to learn more about our services and discover how we can support you.