March 25, 2021

More than 300 scientists from 25 countries joined AOAC for a gathering in which a new program and four new working groups were launched, six Standard Method Performance RequirementsSM (SMPR) were finalized, and a wealth of ideas exchanged.

The meeting started with a bang as AOAC’s Immediate Past President Henry Chin announced that, for just the third time since its inception, the coveted William Horwitz Award will be presented in August. AOAC’s highest award for volunteers will go to chemist Jonathan DeVries, whose combined time on the AOAC Official Methods Board and Board of Directors is more than 25 years.

The theme of this meeting was the growing “One Health” approach, which was detailed by the two speakers at the Analytical Solutions Forum (ASF) Symposium. Cheryl Stroud, DVM, Executive Director of the One Health Commission, introduced the concept and discussed shared human-animal environments and the microbiome. “It is almost impossible to get medical doctors to attend veterinary conferences, or veterinary doctors to attend medical conferences,” she lamented, reiterating that “no one profession can know everything. Collaborations start with relationships that won’t magically happen on their own.”

She was followed by Rear Admiral David P. Goldman, MD, MPH of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Food Policy and Response. In his Keynote Address, he gave a more defined focus showing the connection between human health, food safety, food-borne illness and environmental contamination, as well as how the FDA uses cutting edge technology to minimize risk and illness. He summarized his agency’s approach as “Outbreak investigations + One Health collaborations = action,” noting the many players in the process, from industry to academia and government. All are required for detection, traceback, farm investigations, lab analyses, communications and action. In summary, produce safety needs a One Health solution.

Over two days of the Analytical Solutions Forum, the ASF Steering Committee, joined by thought leaders and stakeholders, discussed the evolution of analytical science and key emerging issues. This broad-ranging conversation touched on safety and security, heat-generated compounds such as furans and acrylamides, marine and freshwater toxins, dietary supplements, food packaging-derived contaminates such as PFAS, MOSH and MOAH, curcuminoids, emergency response, rapid hand-held technology, and more. 

AOAC directors also gave a status update on core programs. Arlene Fox, Senior Director of the Laboratory Proficiency Testing Program (LPTP), described how the program has overcome obstacles to expand to Brazil, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Adding stable matrices like infant formula has allowed more distant countries, such as Kenya and Thailand, to participate.. The new Hemp Proficiency Testing Program is starting with three to four groups of analytes, and AOAC is examining setting up a training and quality program to support new labs and expand their scope of accreditation. She noted that the two programs have different targets: The PT program is best for established routine tests, while the proposed training program is best for new/internal methods and samples or new staff/analytes. Looking to the future, AOAC’s LPTP program plans to identify new geographic areas and programs.

Scott Coates, Senior Director of the AOAC Research Institute (RI), reported on the Performance Tested Methods program. New programs include the Onsite Method Validation model which eliminates the need for shipping; the Analytical Consulting Science Program where AOAC makes its Technical Consultants available for writing manuscripts, literature research, preparation of methods in AOAC Official Methods of AnalysisSM format; special projects, and more. AOAC’s Emergency Response Validation program is designed to respond to urgent new analytical challenges in a timely way. RI also is opening a program to respond to urgent new matrix applications with a Targeted Matrix Extensions Program, starting with cannabis (salmonella, STEC, aspergillus, and mycotoxins). Finally, the new Reviewed and Recognized (R2) Program is a certification program for technology providers where AOAC will review the procedures and claims in application notes. This can be an interim step into the AOAC validation system for technology providers. AOAC is planning up to two pilot projects for 2021 and will open the program to all comers in 2022.

In a review of recent accomplishments, Senior Director of Standards Deborah McKenzie noted that the high-performing Stakeholder Panel for Infant Formula and Adult Nutritionals (SPIFAN) program has racked up 60 first action methods, 22 final action methods, 16 designated as Codex Type II, and more in its 11-year collaboration. Two new working groups, A2 beta casein and phospholipids, were launched at the meeting.

The Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP) has five working groups and has produced 10 SMPRs, three ERPs, two first action methods, a suite of webinars, and an amazing array of networking and engagement opportunities.

The Food Authenticity Methods (FAM) program has published six SMPRs and has three active working groups. A number of new SMPRs are now in the drafting stage for spices and botanicals. An emergency response guidance document is also under development. Current calls include method validation plans for olive oil, honey and milk as well as a call for experts to form ERPs.

The new Gluten and Food Allergens Program will address new and ongoing challenges. This is a follow on to AOAC’s International Stakeholder Panel for Alternative Methods (ISPAM) program that produced five SMPRs for food allergens and one for gluten, as well as six Official Methods for gluten and one for food allergens, both launching during the Midyear Meeting.

A new Working Group on Glyphosates, launched in September of 2020, is approaching the stage of a call for comments for a draft SMPR. Once approved, a call for methods will be announced to address the need for glyphosate (and its major metabolites) determination in 37 matrices.

The Rosins Working Group, a recent startup, has issued calls for methods and experts following development of four SMPRs for neutral components.

A collaboration with the AOAC India Section and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) continues to work on a project concerning methods for veterinary drug residue detection in matrices of regional interest; and, in related standards activities, AOAC has an ad hoc expert panel on sweetness and a new initiative on veterinary drug residues in Indian matrices. AOAC continues its engagement with ISO and IDF, Codex, and its role as liaison to US TAG to ISO/TC 34. We are currently in discussions about playing a role in TC 134 as well.

The AOAC Technical Division on Reference Materials, and its database, are increasing active participation in AOAC science programs. They are also conducting training and education workshops on reference materials and a plan for student recognition.

AOAC’s core programs continued their advance in working sessions at the Midyear Meeting. The Gluten and Allergens program, the first of AOAC’s new initiatives to receive sponsorship, launched two new working groups, one for each topic. They are now building validation guidance for method developers and for Expert Review Panels on what should be included.

SPIFAN moved four SMPRs to a vote, which is slated to conclude within the week. An SMPR for Chlorate and Perchlorate in Baby Foods opened for public comment, as has an SMPR for Vitamin C developed by a joint AOAC/Chinese GB working group. SPIFAN also launched two new working groups, for A2 Beta-Casein and phospholipids. CASP put out for comment two new SMPRs for mycotoxins in cannabis and yeast and mold count enumeration, as well as two Calls for Methods, for shiga-toxin producing E. coli in cannabis and for mycotoxin screening technique in cannabis plant materials.

The Food Authenticity meeting heard of the progress being made towards SMPR development for Botanicals & Spices from each of the program’s three working groups. Each are examining the many complexities for analyzing saffron, turmeric, and vanilla.

Other notable activities at the Midyear Meeting were sessions highlighting the Japan Section and the Southern Section. AOAC President Erin Crowley said of the student presenters, Miki Tkahashi of the Japan Section and Eugenia Ndieze and Ike Oguadinma of the Southern Section, “We were beyond impressed by them. Presenting is never easy, but Mika, Ike and Eugenia handled it with ease and gravitas.”

A final meeting highlight came as AOAC’s Senior Director of Membership and Communications, Dawn Frazier, noted the networking and informational advantages of a recent migration of AOAC Communities to the LinkedIn platform. AOAC Chief Science Officer Palmer Orlandi noted that this allows discussions to continue in real time in between meetings and reach a wider audience. “There is so much overlap – for example, between the Metals Community and Natural Colors. If you are only going to one community, you are missing out.”