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The demand for seafood is rising day-by-day because of the shift of food habits and choices of consumers across the globe. This industry has grown exponentially due to the rising production and the constant export of seafood to different regions. However, this highly perishable and valuable food category requires testing solutions that don’t compromise on accuracy and speed. Thus, there is a need for the seafood companies to empower operations throughout the value chain by working with suppliers to ensure safety, quality and authenticity. To find out more in this regard, nuFFooDS Spectrum reached out to Amit Chopra, Managing Director, India and South Asia, Thermo Fisher Scientific.
What are the current challenges facing the seafood testing space in India?
The seafood testing space is a complex area with multiple variables to consider. At every step of the lifecycle in seafood testing, the biggest challenge is time. The time to result for quality assurance and testing needs to be as short as possible. In addition, seafood is a category that is prone to food fraud. Here, food authenticity and tracking become critical to ensuring the food quality and security. Owing to health and safety concerns, the seafood industry has strict compliance standards that include Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), traceability, and certification. The challenges lie in meeting all these compliances with timely results.
What solutions are being offered by Thermo Fisher to counter these challenges?
At Thermo Fisher Scientific, we bring world-class food testing technologies to India, covering the entire value chain. Our solutions focus on throughput, accuracy, automation, and authenticity. For example, we deploy ready-to-use culture media to reduce the turnaround time for sampling and for increasing the throughput. In addition, our assays are designed to deliver accurate results for pathogen detection and identification using multiplex RT-PCR assays. This enables labs to obtain real-time and rapid results from various testing methods that suit their needs.
Automation has become an integral part of modern businesses, and seafood testing is benefitting hugely from this as well. For example, at Thermo Fisher, our qPCR workflows streamline processes for pathogen detection, including surface sampling for environmental monitoring. This has mainly been useful in packaging and handling to monitor and control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other contaminants at seafood processing facilities. Our next-generation sequencing (NGS) solutions also help identify and trace numerous seafood species concerning authenticity. This protects consumers against food fraud and adulteration.
Are the seafood testing solutions by Thermo Fisher more in demand in India or the foreign markets?
India accounts for approximately 6.3 per cent of global fish production and is the second biggest aquaculture and fish producer globally. The country is the fourth biggest seafood exporter globally, with exports worth $7 billion. However, the sector witnessed a setback in the domestic market and global exports due to the pandemic.
As per the projections, in the coming years, the sector is expected to have healthy growth due to multiple factors such as growing domestic demand for fish-based food products, rising disposable incomes, increasing population, rising health awareness, increase in the consumption of protein-rich foods to name a few. Testing solutions will see growth for process control, safety, quality, and authenticity as the demand increases. Moreover, testing solutions to meet export regulations and criteria will be needed with fast and accurate delivery mechanisms.
How is technology enhancing the seafood testing industry, and what more can be done to enhance this sector?
NGS and automation for biological and chemical contaminants have revolutionised the seafood testing industry. NGS combines advanced analytical tools with genetic sequencing to enable the detection and traceability of seafood. This can be utilised throughout the supply chain to ensure food safety. Automation has resulted in improved workflows that give accurate and quick results, which are extremely valuable in the seafood industry. Automation has also made it possible to collect data from harvesting to end consumers to maintain the seafood product’s integrity, demand prediction, and risk mitigation.
Our objective now should be to make information more readily available to companies and consumers about their consuming seafood. This can be made possible by investing in emerging technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), which can also enable traceability for the end consumer. The testing industry is working towards further reducing processing time for quality tests. The industry needs to aim for multiple tests being conducted by single devices accurately and swiftly.
Is Thermo Fisher planning to launch new solutions in the food testing space in the coming years, particularly for the Indian market?
The food testing market in India is growing at a steady pace and is expected to reach $26.4 million by 2024. There is an increasing need for tests like allergen, sensitivity, and food intolerance. Moreover, consumer awareness, stringent regulations, and food business globalisation are further fuelling the growth momentum of this sector.
At Thermo Fisher, we offer a full spectrum of food testing solutions, from identifying the species present in food, feed, and ingredients, to verification of origin, traceability of raw materials, and quality control of handling and cleaning processes in food production lines.
Our solutions, like The Thermo Scientific NGS Food Authenticity Workflow, utilises the Ion Torrent Next Generation Sequencing technology to enable an untargeted screening approach making it possible to identify meat, plant, and fish species contained in a sample by comparison with an extensive DNA database.
Our ready-to-use SGS All Species ID Food DNA Analyser Kits allow the amplification of meat, fish, or plant DNA by PCR, thereby preparing the sample for NGS and automated data analysis with the SGS All Species ID Software. Results are displayed as a list of any specific meat, plant, and fish species present in the sample.
We are leading in combating food frauds with the first complete NGS workflow for meat, fish, and plant species screening and identification. The Thermo Scientific Next Generation Food Authenticity (NGS) Workflow offers rapid, multi-species identification of meat, fish, and plant species with the minimal hands-on time required.
We will keep building on this category and offer solutions in line with our mission by enabling our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.
Dr Manbeena Chawla