Oxford Instruments designs, supplies and supports high-technology instrumentation with a focus on research and industrial applications. Innovation has been the driving force behind Oxford Instruments’ growth and success for over 50 years, and its strategy is to effect the successful commercialisation of these ideas by bringing them to market in a timely and customer-focused fashion.
The first technology business to be spun out from Oxford University over fifty years ago, Oxford Instruments is now a global company with over 1900 staff worldwide and is listed on the London Stock Exchange (OXIG). Its objective is to be the leading provider of new generation tools and systems for the research and industrial sectors.
Food and Beverage Industry
Oxford Instruments offers a number of simple and rapid measurements based on the MQC and Pulsar benchtop NMR instruments. MQC is a low-cost NMR analyser designed for measurements of total oil or fat content in a variety of food raw materials or finished products. Pulsar adds an extra level of capability as a genuine high resolution NMR spectrometer adapted to industrial QC applications.
MQC applications revolve around measurements of total fat content in a wide variety of foodstuffs. One of the most common applications is the measurement of oil in oleaginous seeds such as rape, sunflower, and soybean. Oil or fat content can be measured in dried snack foods and chocolate, and after drying the sample, in a wide range of food products such as meat and prepared foods. A recently developed application is to measure the oil content of palm mesocarp, to assist in developing oil palm varieties with higher oil yield.
In all cases, accurate and precise measurement of oil (or fat) content takes only a few tens of seconds per sample, and does not require solvents, any other chemicals or elaborate sample preparation.
As a high resolution NMR spectrometer, Pulsar is able to collect information on the chemical structure of food constituents - notably, in many cases, on the degree of saturation by assessing the number of double bonds in the fat molecules. This leads to a number of specific quality control applications of interest to the food industry.
Fatty Acid Composition
It will become mandatory in the EU at the end of 2016 to display levels of saturated fats on processed food labels; this is already mandatory in the USA, and other countries can be expected to follow. With this minimum requirement in place, food producers may choose to add further information where health benefits can be promoted through high levels of polyunsaturates and omega-3 oils. It is therefore important to have rapid, simple, and reliable methods for the measurement of fatty acid composition. Pulsar offers the ability to measure levels of total fat, saturated fat, mono-and poly-unsaturated fat, and Omega-3 in a single measurement taking only a few minutes. Samples can be oils, fats, or raw or processed food products.
Speciation of Meat
In recent years there have been a number of scandals involving fraudulent mis-labelling of meat in the human food sales chain. The most prominent recent example is perhaps the horsemeat scandal in Europe, whereby food products labelled as "beef" were found to contain significant amounts of horsemeat. While not hazardous to health, this activity nevertheless constitutes criminal fraud, as the consumer is paying for a premium product (beef) but receiving an inferior and cheaper one (horse). To combat this activity it is important that reputable food producers and regulators have methods at their disposal to quickly and reliably check that a meat product is what it is claimed to be. Pulsar offers a method for simple routine testing of raw meat samples to validate the claimed species.