Analytical vs. Database Food Testing
Food professionals use two common approaches to determine nutritional label information: analytical testing and database testing. You might be wondering what the advantages of each method are and which is preferable for your situation and food product.
Medallion Labs will help you understand both approaches and why you might choose analytical or database testing for the nutritional facts panel.
Analytical and Database Food Testing Achieve the Same Objectives
Here’s the important news: both accurate analytical and database testing are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the following purposes:
- Generate nutrition facts panel
- Generate ingredients statements
- Generate allergen declarations
- Determine nutrient values per serving
How these methods determine results, what products can be tested, and what is required for testing is where the differences come into play.
What’s Unique About Analytical Testing for Nutritional Labels?
As previously mentioned, database testing is often faster and more affordable than analytical testing. No lab testing is used, so it doesn’t require a food sample, making it an accessible option for many companies. Because there is no lab testing, Medallion Labs does not provide database analysis.
Keep in mind that FDA nutrition database testing may not be as accurate as analytical testing for some food products. Depending on your item, analytical testing may be the only viable choice.
Common Questions About Food Testing Options
Q: Which type of testing is required—analytical or database testing?
A: It’s up to you and the level of risk you’ll want to assume. Analytical testing is the most accurate way to label a product. It is also how the FDA would verify that your product is within the nutrients listed on the label. Database testing can be conducted faster and is more affordable.
Q: Why use analytical testing when database testing is more affordable?
A: The cost of generating a mock label through analytical testing is much greater than generating a mock label through a database. This is because work is being done to specifically measure the nutrients in your specific, unique product. Analytical testing takes into account variables you cannot physically see, such as the variability of the ingredient, transformation of sugars, or vitamin degradation through processing.
Analytical testing is important because it might not match the database calculation depending on the test method and product. For example, if you use multiple fiber sources in your product, you might have to choose the fiber method that captures the majority of your fiber sources, meaning that database calculation may indicate a higher fiber value than what analytical tests can measure. Knowing the true, measurable value is the most dependable way to label your product as the FDA uses analytical testing to verify nutritional compliance.
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Q: Does Medallion Labs require a complete list of ingredients or a recipe to do the testing?
A: Analytical testing quantifies the amount of each nutrient in your sample. We do not require an ingredients list or recipe but would appreciate any estimates, along with units, you can provide for each nutrient we are testing for.
Q: I only changed one ingredient. Do I need to redo my nutritional label?
A: Each product has a theoretical mass balance that adds up to 100%. Each ingredient in your product contributes to the mass balance. If you change one ingredient, it can change the balance of your product. For example, if you swap out pecans for peanuts, the protein content will change, impacting calories and carbohydrates. To maintain the accuracy of your label, Medallion Labs recommends repeating the nutritional analysis with formulation changes.
Q: My product is made with a few simple ingredients. Am I required to test the full nutritional facts label, or can I just do some basic calculations?
A: Again, this will depend on the level of risk you want to assume. The FDA uses analytical testing to verify your nutritional facts label. Medallion Labs is unable to perform or provide any nutrient calculations.
Q: We're making formulation tweaks to our product. Is it okay to use a database rather than analytical testing?
A: Using a database is great while you're formulating. There are many kinds of databases; some are funded and informed by government or trade agencies, some can be purchased, and sometimes companies will build their own resource based on lab analyses of their ingredients.
Q: Can you reverse engineer my product to determine the percentage of various ingredients?
A: No, we cannot do this, nor can we determine a product’s recipe based only on a sample. Medallion Labs could tell you the total percent moisture, ash, protein, or fiber. Our tests measure targeted nutrients, and we need the customer to tell us which specific tests need to be run.
Database and Analytical Nutritional Label Testing at Medallion Labs
Budget, turnaround time, and the type of food product you are testing all impact your decision to use analytical testing or database testing for nutritional labels. Medallion Labs provides both food testing methods and is here to meet your needs with accurate, reliable results. We suggest you always refer to our tech data sheets and online order form for the latest details. Our breadth of testing options helps you maximize your testing budget by providing the results you seek in a cost-efficient manner.
Medallion Labs is ready to use our testing options, expertise, and skills for your testing needs. Contact us or call 1-800-245-5615 to discuss the criteria and testing needs for your food products.
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