Q1.     What are the main services provided by Cotecna for food safety? In which regions are these services provided?

The analytical scope globally provided by the different Cotecna labs is pretty wide because of the high number of methods used for the different types of raw materials, ingredients, and finished products; more than 3000 methods according to the ISO 17025 accreditation.

Most of these methods concern the detection of chemical contaminants, which can include pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, alkaloids, veterinary drugs, dioxins and more generally any sort of chemical compound that can impact the safety of the whole supply chain.

80% of the tests are carried out in Europe, but for products and ingredients coming from all over the world

Q2.    In the future do you see food safety testing as a standalone activity, or would it be interrelated with other conformity assessment procedures?

Food safety testing is crucial to assess the quality of a food product, but it should be complemented with other tests which are necessary to evaluate its overall compliance. While we can say that detecting a mycotoxin in a product through analysis is the first concern to be evaluated due to the importance of consumer safety, there are other factors that must also be considered, such as nutritional elements and labelling conformity.

Does Cotecna focus only on food safety or also on feed safety?

Feed testing is indeed an important part of our scope of activity. Cotecna provides an end-to-end service - from farm to fork - and feed testing is essential to protect the upstream segment of different food supply chains.

Q3.    How do we tackle and solve challenges related to the various national standard requirements for testing food and food products?

The lack of harmonization between different countries can only be addressed by developing specific methods for the specific countries where different standards are applied, and aligning them to the criteria coming from different legislations. This is what we are currently doing, in order to support our clients in a global market, with a great effort in terms of method development, validation, and formal accreditation

Q4.    How big is the need for food safety regarding milk-based products products for the global market?

Milk, and especially powdered milk, is a basic ingredient for a huge variety of product formulation, like infant formula. As an important category of foodstuffs with a global market, these products are normally tested by authorities and NGOs during official controls and market surveys and their safety profile is the first element that is determined in in this context.

Q5.    Is it possible for valorised food processing by-products to be both safe and sustainable?

Yes, of course. Keeping in mind that safety is a mandatory requirement while sustainability is voluntary and comes from a company’s policy.

Q6.    What is the impact of COVID-19 on the food sector? The food sector has proved its resilience during the pandemic, which has been a kind of “stress test” for the different food supply chains.

Nevertheless, some sectors and some activities have been impacted. In particular, the food service industry suffered a lot during the lockdown, because of the closure of bars and restaurants during this time.

R&D activities and new product developments have also been reduced during the pandemic, because they normally involve or require consumer testing before launching on the market.

Q7.    How does Cotecna fight food counterfeiting?

With the main purpose to fight food fraud, we can carry out different tests to prove the authenticity of ingredients and raw materials. With these tests we can determine the presence of specific DNA fragments or to evaluate the composition profile of a product, that could be checked by analyzing specific elements (like fatty acids or other components) or by checking fraudulent ingredients (like water, sugars, and ethanol).

The analytical techniques that can be used for fighting food adulteration are different and we are currently expanding the set of methods by introducing new technologies, such as NGS, which is used for DNA fingerprinting.

Q8.    When it comes to consumers, do you think there is enough awareness on the importance of food safety?

Consumers are often misled by advertisements and by the different sources of information, whose reliability is questionable.

To evaluate the risks associated to food consumption, consumers should select the right source of information, should be properly informed by public authorities and food associations to finally get an autonomous opinion about the safety of a product, the level of control, and the seriousness of a brand

Q9.    Greenwashing is currently a high topic on the agenda, how do you see greenwashing impacting the food sector? What is Cotecna doing in supporting a sustainable food chain?

Many food companies and food retailers are perceiving sustainability as a topic to be considered in their policies, and while some of them are taking specific initiatives, few of them have really integrated it in their processes.

The main difficulty is to understand how to deploy the sustainability principles in the specific business you are in. What Cotecna does is to provide customers with objective data and information in order to build up a specific path towards of sustainability.