All types of food and beverage manufacturers are innovating with milk these days, as milk's healthful halo is one few other foods come close to.

All types of food and beverage manufacturers are innovating with milk these days, as milk's healthful halo is one few other foods come close to. However, innovation often correlates to complex formulas and challenging processes, both of which need to be closely measured and tracked to ensure high-quality, consistent innovations.

In addition, many non-dairy foods manufacturers have started working with fluid milk. There are some quality tests these folks need to know about.

What I noticed at this year's IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo® in Orlando was how many innovative product concepts focused on specific levels of the products' nutrients. Have it be a "100 calorie" snack pack or a 20 grams of protein drink, accurately quantified nutrients were an important attribute for the innovation. Providing consumers with products that are within the specifications set up to complement a product's established Nutrition Facts panel is extremely important in today's label-reading society.

As a result, many lab equipment suppliers showcased new and improved tests that assist with identifying and quantifying all of those variables that must be tracked by in-house manufacturing quality assurance and quality control labs.

Photo courtesy of Eastman Chemical Co.

Another trend at this year's Food Expo was lab instruments that not only carry out more-accurate measurements in a shorter time, but instruments that also provide multi-functionality in a single instrument, and ones that can test an array of foods and beverages. Because of these improvements, a single machine can now replace several older models required to do the same functions less efficiently.

"With the growth of specialty dairy products such as yogurt drinks, multi-textured frozen desserts and cultured dairy, labs are moving to highly versatile chemical compound analysis technologies," said Ken Micciche, dir. of marketing at Advanced Instruments Inc., Norwood, Ma. "Those with sensitive infrared spectrometers are accurate enough to evaluate the most complex products and compounds."

In addition to nutrient content analysis, any manufacturer who receives tankers of any class of raw milk should test for added water. This is something than non-traditional dairies may overlook. Cryoscopy is used to accurately and rapidly determine the amount of added water that is present in a milk sample. Cryoscope technology is semi-automated and uses the freezing point depression method to determine if a milk sample has been diluted with water. Samples are tested before raw milk is unloaded into storage. Finished products can also be tested for water content using cryoscope technology for quality assurance purposes.

After testing for added water, it is also important to ensure proper pasteurization. One way to do this is using a rapid alkaline phosphatase test (ALP), which can be used to screen and confirm pasteurization of many different products including milk, flavored milk, cultured products and cheeses.

Finally, many new dairy innovations are starting to tout the fact that they are free of certain known allergens, including soy, gluten and peanuts. Suppliers of allergen tests exhibited many upgrades to current tests as well as new systems.

Interestingly, no sooner did IFT wrap up this year then 2, 2006) run a story about Walt Disney World taking extra care in its food preparation so even those with severe food allergies can visit its properties.

In 1993, Walt Disney World began its special diets program as part of its food and beverage department. Today, guests making meal reservations are asked if they have any special dietary needs, and that information is passed on to the restaurant staff, who can accommodate up to 15 types of food allergies, as well as requests for low-sodium and Kosher diets.

Disney adds no service fee. They even work with families who want to enjoy a buffet by individually preparing the food items the guest selects. Once again, Orlando proves to be a magical place.

The following page contains some lab testing highlights from this year's Food Expo.