Laboratory equipment for Quality Control

Introduction

All food companies should have a laboratory capable of providing basic investigations and tests. The scope depends upon the range of products made and the assurances required by the company's customers.

The following is a list of basic equipment:

A. For ingredient testing

  • A drying oven for making moisture content tests and for calibrating other rapid moisture measurement instruments.
  • At least one balance accurate to 0.001 of a gramme.
  • Equipment for measuring the solid fat index/dilatation of fats.
  • Thermometers accurate to 0.1°C.
  • Refrigerator for storing certain ingredient samples.
  • Sieves for determining particle size ranges of flours and crystalline sugars.
  • Refractometer for measuring sugar solution concentration

B. For packaging materials testing

  • Instrument for checking film seal strength.
  • Facility for checking grease resistance of greaseproof papers.

C. For finished product testing

  • Facilities and procedures for making tasting tests on baked products.
  • Facilities for making hardness tests on baked products.
  • Facilities for making pack seal integrity tests.
  • Facilities for making shelf life (moisture pick up) tests. These are normally made by putting packs in a cabinet maintained at a constant temperature and humidity.
  • pH measurement.
  • Facilities for making analyses of competitors' products, e.g. fat content of biscuits and creams.

What should I consider when selecting laboratory equipment?

Please refer firstly to the text in all the links to be found from List of and description of Quality Control tasks.

You may also find it useful to consider the problems addressed in all the links to be found from Quality Control questions and problems.

  • Try to always have testing equipment that is the same as that used by the suppliers of your ingredients and packaging materials. This improves the chance of agreement should a problem arise about quality and functionality.
  • There are often local industry standard instruments. Aim to have these rather than equipment that is used in other industries or countries.
  • Many Process Control instruments will be electronic and need regular calibration against internationally accepted methods of analysis. Aim to have the apparatus needed to make these calibrations.
  • Some laboratory tests require a suitably trained technician. In these cases, if the tests are not to be made frequently, it may be better and more economic to ask a specialist laboratory to make the tests for you.
  • Consider what consumables may be required for tests and where these can be purchased.
  • Consider who should do repairs and maintenance when required.