With 29 scientific sessions, 66 exposition booths, 275 poster presentations, and daily receptions, the 2019 Annual Meeting was a hub of analytical science dialog and networking.

Attendance was up 8% over the previous year at AOAC’s 133rd Annual Meeting and Exposition in September 2019 as 850 analytical science leaders from 35 countries gathered in Denver, Colorado, USA, to share expertise, meet potential collaborators, and expand their professional horizons.

Attendance was up 8% over the previous year at AOAC’s 133rd Annual Meeting and Exposition in September 2019 as 850 analytical science leaders from 35 countries gathered in Denver, Colorado, USA, to share expertise, meet potential collaborators, and expand their professional horizons.

Recognizing the need to shape strategies to effectively address the changing landscape of food safety through greater shared intelligence and increased international outreach and engagement, the revamped meeting format featured the AOAC Analytical Solutions Forum (ASF), new analytical science programs, working groups, and initiatives in addition to ongoing activities.

The AOAC Annual Meeting showcased innovations in science and presentations from preeminent leaders in the global sciences community. The meeting saw a rise in representatives from the U.S. federal regulatory bodies and an even more significant jump in attendees from state agencies.

AOAC President Brad Goskowicz of Microbiologics kicked off the Opening Session by reflecting on the past year, which was focused on governance, membership, leadership, and growth. “As AOAC evolves to meet the demands of the analytical sciences community, we recognize that the most important element to success is our members,” he said. “Whatever area of scientific focus, stage of career, or geographic location, AOAC members must continue to benefit from opportunities that support their contribution to public health and allow them to thrive professionally.”

AOAC Executive Director David B. Schmidt highlighted AOAC’s activities in developing new science programs, initiatives, events, and website and continuing to deliver analytical solutions for global recognition—all part of implementing AOAC’s strategic plan. He advocated international outreach efforts through AOAC Sections and partnerships with organizations, such as Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and China Institute for Food Science and Technology.

Keynote Address

Keynote speaker Mindy Brashears, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), advocated the importance of fit-for-purpose and validated methods and collaboration with organizations like AOAC to ensure food safety. She examined emerging issues, collaborative opportunities, and challenges that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) laboratories face as they ensure safe food for everyone.

Wiley Address

Wiley Award winner Joseph M. Betz examined the principles of ensuring data integrity and provided an overview of approaches to demonstrating method performance. Betz, acting director of the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, stressed the importance of demonstrating integrity and reproducibility in natural products research and highlighted efforts undertaken in his research.

Analytical Solutions Forum

Focused on the theme “Analytical Tools for Emerging Agricultural Products,” ASF brought together global stakeholders from government, industry, and academia to identify emerging analytical needs and propose strategies to address these challenges. The session examined two focus areas: botanicals and herbal supplements and biostimulants and soil amendments. The goal was to identify areas of analytical need and provide a framework for potential program development.

Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP)

Experts in AOAC’s CASP approved three Standard Method Performance Requirements (SMPRs®) during the 133rd AOAC Annual Meeting. The new standards will guide method development for quantitation of cannabinoids in plant materials of hemp (low THC varieties Cannabis spp.), identification and quantitation of selected residual solvents in dried cannabis materials, and detection of Aspergillus in cannabis and cannabis products.

Food Authenticity/Fraud Program

The Nontargeted Testing Working Group (NTTWG), chaired by John Szpylka (Mérieux NutriSciences), is developing AOAC SMPRs based on known adulterants for the commodities and instrument platforms. In addition, the working group will develop specific SMPRs for the priority commodities. Stakeholders reviewed the NTTWG’s draft standard, the first of its kind to identify and place parameters around acceptance criteria for nontargeted testing of milk, olive oil, and honey.

The Targeted Testing Working Group (TTWG), chaired by Joe Boison (independent consultant), is conducting a gap analysis of available methodologies and will evaluate the level of performance and validation for use in analyzing priority commodities. Also, a framework has been developed to assess method performance, including instrument platforms for adulterants of concern. The TTWG has formed subgroups and are currently examining the priority commodities. TTWG shared the results of gap analysis of existing methodologies.

Standards Development and Official MethodsSM Activities

Among the highlights of the AOAC Annual Meeting included stakeholder, working group, and expert review panel (ERP) activities related to food safety and infant formula. Major outcomes included:

  • Official MethodSM for amino acids in infant formula and adult nutritionals
  • Official MethodSM for lactose in milk
  • SMPR for detection of Aspergillus in cannabis and cannabis products (CASP)
  • SMPR for identification and quantitation of selected residual solvents in dried cannabis materials (CASP)
  • SMPR for quantitation of cannabinoids in plant materials of hemp (CASP)

Quantitative Microbiology Methods Validation Acceptance Criteria

Based on decisions from the AOAC Midyear Meeting in March 2019, the Working Group on Quantitative Microbiology Method Validation Acceptance Criteria, co-chaired by Patrick Bird, PMB BioTek Consulting, and Patrice Arbault, Nexidia/BioAdvantage Consulting, developed draft SMPRs for acceptance criteria for quantitative microbiological method validations. The working group explored each section of the SMPR and reached consensus on purpose, applicability, and the proposed acceptance criteria.

Food Allergens

The Food Allergens Working Group, co-chaired by Jupiter Yeung (Nestlé) and Samuel Godefroy (University Laval), continued its work on developing an approach for reference materials in advance of developing an SMPR for tree nuts (almonds and hazelnuts).

HMOs AND LF

AOAC launched two new working groups for human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) and lactoferrin (LF). Stakeholders endorsed fitness-for-purpose statements, which will be used by the working groups as a basis to develop SMPRs. Standards development activities are part of the AOAC Stakeholder Panel on Infant Formula and Adult Nutritionals (SPIFAN).

Recognizing Excellence

In front of a packed audience on September 9, 2019, AOAC honored more than 200 scientists for exceptional contributions to food safety testing. Awardees included 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.

New Leadership

On September 9, 2019, Goskowicz passed the gavel to incoming president Henry Chin (Henry Chin and Associates) at a reception in honor of AOAC Organizational Affiliates. “I am confident that under Henry’s leadership the Board of Directors will continue to make significant progress in multiple areas throughout the organization. I wish them all the best and know that they will take the organization to the next level,” Goskowicz said.

Professional Development

AOAC INTERNATIONAL welcomed 44 members at the full-day AOAC Method Validation Training Course on September 12, 2019. Attendees reviewed technical validation requirements, processes of the Performance Tested Methods℠ (PTM) and Official Methods of Analysis℠ (OMA) programs, and technical requirements for microbiology and chemistry methods. All participants received a certificate of completion that will be used to qualify AOAC reviewers and independent laboratories.

Spotlighting Expert Insights

All four of the short, informal “AOAC Spotlight On…” interactive talks on September 10, 2019, were standing room only. Orlandi kicked off with a presentation on “Out of the Box Thinkers: Are You One?” introducing AOAC’s new ASF. 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.

Scientific Sessions

Developed by the Technical Programming Council (see sidebar for 2019-2020 members), 29 scientific sessions featured a spectrum of topics, including reference materials, botanicals and dietary supplements, food authenticity, food fraud, food safety, glutens, cannabis, veterinary drugs, chemical contaminants, food allergens, mycotoxins, and elemental analysis to name a few.

The Wiley Award Symposium, September 9, 2019, focused on advances in analytical methods for botanical dietary supplements and for clinical nutritional assessment. Topics included high-throughput affinity selection-mass spectrometry identification of pharmacologically active natural products in complex mixtures, importance of methods selection and validation for ensuring safety and quality of botanical dietary supplements and assessing vitamin D status.

Poster Presentations

More than 275 poster presentations featured displays by authors of contributed scientific research papers and included a written and pictorial summary of the research. Posters focused on hot topic areas such as analysis of foodborne and non-foodborne contaminants and residues; authenticity; botanicals and dietary supplements; colorants and dyes; detection and measurement of natural toxins; emerging issues in food safety and security; environmental analysis; food nutrition and food allergens; general methods, quality assurance, and accreditation; microbiological methods; and PTM.

In addition, author presentations provided an opportunity for attendees to meet and interact with the authors themselves.

Exhibitors and Exhibitor/Partner Presentations

Sixty-six companies filled the Exhibit Hall with state-of-the-art products and services on display. In addition, 16 exhibitors and partners conducted special presentations, which allowed companies to showcase cutting-edge technologies and capabilities, offer product demonstrations, and interact one-on-one with meeting attendees.

Special Events and Networking Opportunities

In addition to a full schedule of meetings and technical sessions, the AOAC Annual Meeting hosted special events and networking opportunities, including the AOAC Network Reception, Exhibit Hall Grand Opening and President’s Welcome Reception, Technical Division for Laboratory Management Reception (co-sponsored by Microbiologics), and Technical Division on Reference Materials Reception (co-sponsored by FONA International, Mérieux NutriSciences, Millipore Sigma, and Restek).

Attendees who joined since the previous Annual Meeting networked and learned more about the benefits of membership at the New Member and First-Time Attendee Welcoming Reception (sponsored by Abbott Nutrition). Finally, the Closing Reception capped off another successful Annual Meeting.