The Growing Food Testing : Pathogens, Pesticides and GMOs

Published - Oct 2001| Analyst - Dorothy Kroll| Code - FOD011C
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Report Highlights

  • Sales in the U.S. of food testing products will increase from $149.5 million in 2000 to $239.4 million in 2005 at an AAGR (average annual growth rate) of 9.9%.
  • The total number of tests for pathogens and pesticides performed in 2000 will be 27.53 million, rising to 34.15 million in 2005.
  • The larger share (82%) will be for tests to detect pathogens. These will rise at an AAGR of 9.4% to $192.5 million in 2005.
  • Sales of pesticide-residue tests will increase at an AAGR of 7.7% from $8.9 million in 2000 to $12.9 million in 2005.
  • The GM testing market, worth $18 million in 2000, is expected to have the fastest growth of 13.6% per year on average.

INTRODUCTION

STUDY GOAL AND OBJECTIVES

Americans have the safest food supply in the world, yet the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year there are an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths due to foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illnesses are caused by pathogens, which include bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxins. Known pathogens account for 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths annually. Pathogens occur naturally in plants and animals, but they can contaminate foods and make humans who ingest them ill. These illnesses are typically short-lived, but chronic medical complications, and even fatalities, can also occur.

Pesticides, on the other hand, are not natural; they are manmade chemicals that are deliberately applied by farmers to protect crops. These fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides protect crops against diseases, insects, and weeds. The consequences of human ingestion of foods containing pesticide residues are not as clear-cut because generalizations about health and safety are drawn from studies with lab animals rather than human subjects.

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are microorganisms, plants, and animals that have had their genetic structure altered by artificial means. Genetically modified (GM) products are such a new area of agriculture biotechnology that there are presently only a few test makers. However, this area is likely to grow as test makers identify the food industry's interest in testing GM products.

While it is suspected that such medical complications as birth defects and cancer can result in the long term, the consensus of health professionals has been that pesticide residues in foods do not pose a serious health risk. The view by regulators is telling: Governmental agencies track outbreaks of foodborne illnesses according to specific types of pathogens, with no mention made of pesticide residues; some residues are allowed to remain in foods because tolerance limits are measured in above- or below-limit ranges, in contrast to pathogens which are detected as either absent or present.

The increase in foodborne illnesses, in general, and in specific types of pathogens, in particular, is due to various consumer, manufacturing, and regulatory trends that may set the stage for contamination or minimal screening methods. For example, there are changes in consumer consumption habits and preferences for plant-based foods and minimally processed convenience foods, as well as an increase in certain risk groups who are most vulnerable to illnesses.

Then there are changes in food production, distribution, and globalization of supply that expands the potential for imports tainted with pathogens or pesticide residues. Compounding the problem are new types of pathogens, as well as new strains of recognized pathogens, and both are appearing in food products where they have never before been identified.

Food processors want to deliver a safe product to consumers, and this can be achieved by testing the raw materials, the product during its processing and production, and/or the finished products. Testing can be conducted in the field or at inhouse/outside labs, and by growers, suppliers, distributors, or processors. The processor's aim in testing a food sample is to ensure its safety so that production can continue and move the product from the warehouse through distribution channels that finally reach consumers. The food processor selects a specific type of test according to various factors, such as testing time required, specificity desired, and the price of the testing process. For bacteria, which are the only pathogens routinely tested for in food samples (viruses and parasites are typically tested in stool specimens of infected persons as the first step), the food processor tests for specific types of bacteria and can choose among culture tests, gene probes, manual immunoassays, and instruments (automated immunoassays).

For other types of pathogens, such as toxins (including mycotoxins and seafood toxins), there are manual immunoassays and instruments (automated immunoassays, chromatography methods). For pesticide-residue detection, there are manual immunoassays and instruments (automated immunoassays) that test for a single type of residue and instruments (chromatography methods) for screening multiple types of residues.

The goal of this report is to describe the various types of tests that can detect pathogens, pesticides and GMOs in food samples, how food processors are using them, and what market and regulatory forces are influencing processors' choices of what pathogens to test for and what type of test is best.

REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY

This report is designed to achieve the following objectives:

  • To discuss the trends and developments taking place for specific types of pathogens and pesticides, and to examine how they influence the development and marketing of tests by test makers who aim to help food processors deliver products that are free of pathogen contamination and have pesticide residues below tolerance limits;
  • To describe the trends and developments for each type of test and for each type of test technology in terms of how each is meant to satisfy the needs of processors as they, in turn, try to satisfy consumer demands for minimally processed convenience foods and plant-based, healthful foods;
  • To analyze market and driving forces with particular attention paid to regulatory forces that create certain programs for specific industries, such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), in order to suggest the market size for tests that screen for specific types of pathogens and pesticides, as well as that for specific test technologies, and to pinpoint target food-processing industries; and
  • To examine the food-testing in terms of types of companies that are the most-active test makers and suppliers, and explore the various ways they respond to the needs of food processors who want and need reliable, sensitive, and cost-efficient tests.

CONTRIBUTION OF THE STUDY

BCC seeks to provide insight into one key question: Which test technologies can best help food processors screen for pathogens and pesticides as they seek to satisfy consumer demands for healthful and convenient processed foods? This report presents the various types of pathogens (bacteria, virus, parasites), toxins (mycotoxins, seafood), and pesticides that are tested for, sources of contamination, and the food and beverage applications in which they can be found as contaminants. The report also examines each testing technology in terms of its pluses and minuses for the food processor.

The various market forces that shape consumer demand for certain foods that have the potential to be contaminated will be discussed, as well as the driving forces that influence food processors to test, either because regulations mandate testing or because they want to, and how these forces promote or hamper growth of specific tests.

The report analyzes specific test technologies that are forecast to have fast growth and others that are projected to have slower growth, taking into consideration such factors as ease-of-use performance, whether results are indicated as qualitative or quantitative, long- or short-term testing periods required, price, sensitivity and specificity, accuracy, and reliability.

SCOPE AND FORMAT

The problem of foodborne illness is initially discussed, followed by an examination of the need for testing. Each type of pathogen and pesticide is described, as well as sources of contamination, food and beverage applications in which they can be found, various types of tests and technologies that screen for each, the market and driving forces influencing market size, and the most-active test makers and their testing products. The market for GMOs is introduced with an overall presentation of the GM products, along with the testing-market size.

METHODOLOGIES

Communications Co., Inc. (BCC) makes sales estimates and projections for testing products according to: specific types of bacteria, toxins, and pesticides; by their specific testing technologies; and by the industries that most commonly test their materials or finished products.

INFORMATION SOURCES

BCC first conducted an extensive review of the secondary literature (print and electronic) consisting of materials gathered from trade journals and magazines, company and product literature, trade and professional associations, and government and industry sources. Subsequently, some 100 telephone interviews were conducted with personnel and technical sources in the areas of quality assurance/control, marketing and sales departments of test makers, independent labs, and researchers and academics at university and governmental facilities.

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