The diversity of foodstuffs with their often very different product properties represents a real challenge for food testing laboratories. Before the actual analysis, the sample materials – which can vary strongly with regards to hardness and moisture – need to be homogenized and reduced to a sufficiently small particle size. RETSCH’s GRINDOMIX knife mills are the ideal tools to meet the complex requirements of the sample preparation of food. The model GM 200 has proven itself for the homogenization of small sample volumes of up to 700 ml. For larger volumes RETSCH offers the GM 300 model with a grinding chamber volume of 5,000 ml.
Most sample materials can be ground to the required analytical fineness at room temperature. However, there are limits, for example when even a small temperature increase affects the sample in a negative way; or when the material is very elastic and will only be deformed. Moreover, food samples which are fatty or sticky may block the mill. Therefore, cryogenic grinding is the best way to pulverize food samples like cheese, raisins, wine gum or marzipan which simply clump together when ground at room temperature.
In the book "Ideas and Applications Toward Sample Preparation for Food and Beverage Analysis," (ISBN 978-953-51-3686-6), edited by Mark T. Stauffer, RETSCH has published a chapter on reliable sample preparation of food samples. This chapter describes the process of turning a laboratory sample into a representative part sample with homogeneous analytical fineness by choosing the most suitable mill. Important aspects of size reduction and homogenization are explained, a variety of application examples is given, and specific applications such as cryogenic grinding are discussed in detail.
How to turn a laboratory sample into a representative part sample with homogeneous analytical fineness -
Food occurs in a great variety of consistencies and is often inhomogeneous. Food testing labs require representative samples to produce meaningful and reproducible analysis results. Therefore, food samples must be homogenized and pulverized to the required analytical fineness, ideally with as little time and effort as possible. Furthermore, reliable analytical results can only be obtained if the entire sample preparation process is carried out reproducibly.
A solid sample material should always be sufficiently prepared by size
reduction and homogenization before it is subjected to chemical or physical analysis. Care should be taken that the analysis sample fully represents the original material and that the sample preparation process is carried out reproducibly. Only then are meaningful results guaranteed. Most sample materials can be reduced to the required analytical fineness at room temperature by choosing a mill with a suitable size reduction principle (impact, pressure, friction, shearing, cutting).
Like all foodstuff, confectionery is subjected to strict quality controls. Parameters of interest are, for example, nutritional value, moisture or fat content, or the quantification of particular ingredients, such as vitamins or alkaloids. Typically, chromatographic methods like High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) are used to analyze food samples. Most analytical methods only require a few milligram or gram of sample; the previous size reduction/homogenization process ensures that the small analysis sample is representative of the entire laboratory sample, thus allowing for reproducible results. Moreover, homogenized samples show a much better extraction behavior.
Genetic engineering opens up new possibilities in areas such as medical research, development of alternative fuels or global food supply. It is used to modify the characteristics of plants in order to increase the crop yield, improve defense against predators, pesticides or draught, but also increase concentrations of essential vitamins. However, with regards to food the use of genetic engineering is a fairly controversial issue. Moreover, food and feed stuff are subject to rigorous quality control processes to prevent humans and animals from potential harm.
Reliable and accurate analysis results can only be guaranteed by reproducible sample preparation. This consists of transforming a laboratory sample into a representative part sample with homogeneous analytical fineness. Retsch offers a comprehensive range of the most modern mills and crushers for coarse, fine and ultra-fine size reduction of almost any material. The product range also comprises a wide choice of grinding tools and accessories which helps to ensure contamination-free preparation of a great variety of sample materials. The selection of the correct grinding tool depends on the sample material and the subsequent method of analysis. Different grinding tools have different characteristics, such as required energy input, hardness or wear-resistance.
Sample preparation of vegetable-based raw materials with laboratory mills
Thanks to the increasing usage of biomass as a source of energy, the analysis of these materials in the context of R&D and quality control gains importance, too. Due to the complex properties of plant materials, adequate sample preparation can be rather a challenge.
In the analysis of solid material, the popular adage that “bigger is better” certainly does not apply. The goal is to produce particles that are sufficiently small to satisfy the requirements of the analysis while ensuring that the final sample accurately represents the original material. The “particles” of interest to the analyst generally range from 10 µm to 2mm. Additionally there are many application, where even finer sizes are needed. One example are active ingredients, where it is necessary to grind in the submicron range. Finally for DNA or RNA extraction mechanical cell lysis is well-established.
Materials differ widely in their composition and physical properties. Hence, there are many different grinding principles that can be applied, and this, together with other variables such as initial feed or “lump” size, fineness needed and amount of sample available, results in a wide range of models available to the researcher.
A variety of methods can be used to analyze solid materials. What they all have in common is the necessity to use a representative, homogeneous analysis sample which needs to have a particular fineness, depending on the analytical method used. The size reduction and homogenization of solids is usually carried out with laboratory crushers and grinders.
A faultless and comparable analysis is closely linked to an accurate sample handling. Only a sample representative of the initial material can provide meaningful analysis results. Rotating dividers and rotary tube dividers are an important means to ensure the representativeness of a sample and thus the reproducibility of the analysis. Correct sample handling consequently minimizes the probability of a production stop due to incorrect analysis results. Thus correct sample handling is the key to effective quality control.
The so-called QuEChERS method (“quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged and safe”) has been developed to make sample preparation to pesticide analysis more efficient. Serial tests have proved that the analysis results obtained with the QuEChERS method can easily bear comparison with more common methods, such as DFG S19. To guarantee reproducible analysis results, it is essential to completely homogenize the sample. To make sure the sample preparation is reproducible, the homogenization process needs to be carried out with a laboratory mill.
Why Size Reduction? A reliable and accurate analysis can only be guaranteed by reproducible sample preparation. The "Art of Milling" describes the process of turning a laboratory sample into a representative part sample with homogeneous analytical fineness.