Top take-aways from the premier gathering for analytical food science

Attendance was up 8 percent over the previous year at AOAC’s 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition in September as nearly 850 analytical science leaders from 35 countries gathered in Denver, Colorado to share expertise, meet potential collaborators and expand their professional horizons. With 29 scientific sessions, daily receptions, 66 exposition booths and 277 poster presentations, the 2019 Annual Meeting was a hive of analytical science dialog and networking.

Were you there? Don’t forget to fill out the Annual Meeting Survey to share your ideas and suggestions. AOAC wants to hear from you!

Couldn’t make it? Here are the top take-aways from the meeting:

Big themes

The Annual Meeting stood out for the high level of interest and interactivity, with a more diverse stakeholder group fostering multidisciplinary approaches that expanded the scientific landscape. “The scientific sessions were very good this year,” commented one attendee. “The information covered was relevant and applicable – it wasn’t old information.”

This meeting saw a rise in representatives from the U.S. federal regulatory bodies and an even more significant jump in attendees from state agencies. While the pressing issue of cannabis testing was part of this increase, it was true across the board. In addition to the Keynote Speaker, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent representatives from many of their agencies, as did the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

For some initiatives such as the Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP), the eight days of the Annual Meeting allowed ideas to coalesce and whole communities to get organized. The CASP working groups approved three SMPRs during the Annual Meeting.

The gathering saw an evolution in the science and the process of developing methods for food safety testing. More topics included solutions using both chemistry and microbiology together. A new, much more participatory model for reviewing standards was proven effective in the CASP sessions with real-time electronic audience polling.

In her keynote address, Dr. Mindy M. Brashears, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety discussed the challenges that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) faces and the role AOAC certifications play in providing options to FSIS and industry for rapid detection of pathogens and addressing outbreaks.  She challenged AOAC to streamline the process to increase the number of AOAC validated technologies available for urgent use in ensuring a safe food supply.

Developing standards

Two new analytical methods were approved by Expert Review Panels during the Annual Meeting. These included a new analytical method for determining total amino acids in commercially manufactured infant formula and adult nutritionals. The test provides a second option to measure essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Experts also approved a new analytical method for measuring lactose in milk even at very low levels. The new method was developed by a team of scientists at Megazyme to be faster and less expensive than previously available methods.

Experts in AOAC’s Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP) approved three SMPRs (Standard Method Performance Requirements) during the Annual Meeting. These will guide method development for measuring cannabinoids, identifying and measuring residual solvents, and detecting Aspergillus. CASP working groups also presented recommendations for education and training as well as first steps toward a 2020 work plan.

Recognizing excellence

In front of a packed plenary audience on September 9, AOAC honored more than 200 scientists for exceptional contributions to food safety testing. Awardees including a globally recognized expert in pharmacognosy, a Chinese-Swiss-Irish team addressing a critical analytical need impacting global trade, and an academic with more than 30 years membership in AOAC. AOAC also recognized the winners of the first-time poster presenter contest. Five winners were selected out of a tough field of 53 submissions.

Joseph M. Betz of the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) challenged a packed plenary audience with his thought-provoking Wiley Award Address. “The analysis problem in chemistry is that the compound of analytical interest is in a complex matrix…. What should be measured? We can’t count all the molecules but should ensure rational estimation. We have to sample the sample–a surrogate for the total amount of the analyte.” Betz also highlighted how AOAC played an important role in the ODS Analytical Methods and Reference Materials (AMRM) Program.

New leadership

On September 9, the president of the AOAC INTERNATIONAL Board of Directors, Brad Goskowicz, passed the gavel to incoming president Henry Chin at a reception in honor of AOAC Organizational Affiliates. See the new Board of Directors here.

Professional development

AOAC INTERNATIONAL welcomed 44 members at the full-day AOAC Method Validation Training Course on Thursday Sept 12th. Attendees reviewed technical validation requirements, processes of the Performance Tested Methods℠ and Official Methods of Analysis programs, and technical requirements for microbiology methods and for chemistry methods.  All participants received a certificate of completion that will be used to qualify AOAC reviewers and independent laboratories.

Fostering engagement

Nearly 75 attendees networked and discovered the professional benefits of getting involved with AOAC at the New Member/First-Time Meeting Attendee Orientation on September 8 that introduced AOAC’s initiatives and membership opportunities. As part of the “Who’s celebrating a birthday this Week” contest, two new members received a complimentary copy of the 21st Edition of the Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC INTERNATIONAL (OMA) – a value worth over $700.00.

Spotlighting expert insights

All four of the short, informal “AOAC Spotlight On…” interactive talks on September 10 were standing room only. AOAC’s Chief Science Officer Palmer Orlandi kicked off with a presentation on “Out of the box thinkers: Are you one?” introducing AOAC’s new Analytical Solutions Forum. He was followed by Holly Johnson of the American Herbal Products Association and Toby Astill of PerkinElmer. Both discussed new developments in cannabis testing. Finally, Eric Brown of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration spoke on the role of genomic sciences for food safety.

What attendees are saying

“Lots of great content, lots of great science, tons of experience, friendly people.”

“It was educational, fun, and never boring. I learned a lot while attending.”

“Great way to catch up with colleagues and stay current on the latest food science.”

“Great way to collaborate with other chemists and get contacts for continual collaboration.”