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Measurement Matters 2021: an overview

Last week saw the launch of the inaugural LGC Measurement Matters virtual symposium. The packed event agenda saw panellists and speakers from across LGC and the wider scientific community coming together to discuss a range of topics pertaining to analytical science.

From nitrosamine impurities to cannabis regulations, and from food fraud to COVID-19 testing, the breadth and range of expertise on offer was staggering, delivered by a host of speakers from around the world, all from the comfort of their own workplaces!

We’re taking a look back at some of the highlights of the Measurement Matters symposium. Every session of the event is now available to stream on demand. Simply click the link below and register with an email address – it’s free!

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Pharmaceutical Reference Standards: Towards Metrological Harmonisation

Given the diversity of analytical methods and materials used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, the question of metrological harmonisation is a tricky one. Different methods are not necessarily easily comparable, and may lead to different results.

This panel discussion, hosted by Laura Bush, Editorial Director at LCGC, sought to address the issue. LGC panellists Dr. Moritz Perscheid, Head of Pharma Services, Dr. Sabrina Kusserow, Global Product Manager, and Tabea Strauss, Quality Manager, all took part.


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Dr. Perscheid outlined the variety of results obtainable depending on the pharmacopoeial method used. “You can get different results depending on who measures it and where,” said Perschedi. “A company in the US might use a USP method, whilst in Japan they might use a different method, and these methods are traceable to different basic values. That brings in a little bit of a problem, because the results are not directly comparable.”

“Standards of pharmacopoeias are very tightly bound to their methods.”
Dr. Sabrina Kusserow

Dr. Michael Swartz, Senior Director of Analytical Development at Karuna Therapeutics, was also in attendance, offering his invaluable insight into the applications of pharmaceutical reference standards in a working laboratory.

 “The reference standards I choose are always informed by the API that I’m testing for,” said Swartz. “It’s rare that we’ll have commercially available reference standards for every API that we work with, so we’re used to characterising them ourselves. We probably do more characterisation, when it comes to qualifying a reference standard, than we do to even test the API itself – the Certificate of Analysis is much more extensive.”

Dr. Perscheid said that Swartz’s observations made “perfect sense” to him, given the diversity of Swartz’s workload at Karuna Therapeutics. “How we test impurities always depends on the toxicity of the impurity and the level of contamination that we’re looking at,” he said. “Is it sufficient to only do an identification, or do we need to a limit test? Or do we need to quantify it with extraordinary accuracy? The variety of different applications is huge.”

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Global food authenticity challenges and fraud prevention approaches

James Sizer, Senior Brand Manager at LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing, headed up this star-studded discussion on the state-of-play in the global food authenticity and fraud prevention sector. Selvarani Elahi MBE, the UK Deputy Government Chemist at LGC and Executive Director of the Food Authenticity Network, started by pointing out the lack of a global definition of food fraud and authenticity.

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“Having standardised definitions for these terms will be hugely beneficial, so we can all talk in a common language,” she said. “It will help facilitate international trade and help combat food fraud in a coherent manner.”

Dr. John Spink, Director of the Food Fraud Initiative and Assistant Professor Michigan State University, agreed. “Sometimes we find the definitions [of fraud] to be very narrow in their focus,” he noted. “It’s really important that we step back and look at all types of fraud, and use a broad definition that encompasses any type of deception used for economic gain using food. Then, we can identify what the problems are and go deeper.”

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Also in attendance was Savvas Xystouris, Technical Development Manager at LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing. Drawing on his experiences developing proficiency testing materials for food chemistry PT schemes, Xystouris drew the panel’s attention to a number of areas of key concern. “Fraud is more likely to happen when there is low risk of detection, or the potential economic gains are very big,” he observed. “Olive oil, honey, dairy products, herbs & spices – these are all particularly vulnerable to fraud, along with meat, fish, and alcoholic beverages.”

The sheer diversity of fraudulent tactics was a major topic of discussion, not least because of the plethora of problems this poses to fraud-prevention schemes seeking to stay on top of the issue, but also because of the bizarre and sometimes darkly humorous situations that can arise. Dr. Spink, for instance, pointed out a recent case involving the discovery of large amounts of cocaine in a batch of a well-known breakfast cereal. “One of the oldest fraud-detection techniques, of course, is sniffer dogs,” he noted wryly. “So that particular batch got discovered very quickly.”

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A new frontier: the evolution of regulation and testing in the growing cannabinoids market

According to some estimates, the global legal cannabinoids market size is set to reach $90.5 billion US by 2027. This growth can be attributed to growing demand for pharmaceutical as well as recreational applications. On the recreational front, many territories have legalized the use of cannabis in the recent past, including Canada, South Africa, Uruguay, and, to date, 14 American states. This, coupled with increasing popularity of pain management therapies for treating chronic conditions among elderly populations are also favouring the overall market outlook.

The rising medical prospects associated with cannabis and cannabinoids are significant, and the product is already widely adopted in parts of the world for treating various ailments such as Parkinson’s disease, neurological conditions, arthritis, and some forms of cancer. However, cannabis still remains either prohibited or criminalised in most of the world. Due to the shifting sands of global legislation, cannabis production remains subject to a complicated global regulatory landscape.

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This panel brought together experts from within LGC’s dedicated food, beverage, and environment brand, Dr. Ehrenstorfer, as well as a guest speakers Matt Maurer, partner and the Co-Chair of the Cannabis Law Group at Torkin Manes LLP and the Chair of the Franchise Law Group, and Chris Ashton, Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Pharmacist at Lyphe Group.

Dr. Maura Rury is a Global Product Manager for the Applied Testing Reference Materials Division of LGC Standards, responsible for managing inorganic, volatile organic, and semi-volatile organic reference materials that support environmental, food and beverage, cannabis and forensic market sectors. Early on in the discussion, she noted the ‘Wild West’ cannabis growers and manufacturers are faced with when moving their products around the world.

“It’s a very complicated sector, and at the moment the US federal government doesn’t really want to get involved,” said Dr. Rury. “So states or individual countries are forced to figure out on their own what they would like their rules to be.”

Dr. Kelly Cheshire, Global Product Manager for Environment, Food and Forensics reference materials at LGC, noted the impact of this disharmonic approach insofar as pesticide use is concerned. “Different states will use different combinations of pesticides, in different concentrations,” she observed. “So it quickly becomes difficult to develop a universal method that will cater to all. If there were more federal oversight, that could then provide a framework for everyone to work towards.”

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Canada being the second country in the world after Uruguay to decriminalize cannabis in all forms, Matt Maurer provided insight into the road that may lay ahead of other territories such as the UK and the USA when it comes to cannabis and cannabinoid legislation, particularly insofar as cannabinoid products are concerned.

“There are a lot of divergent views on what the government here got right and what they got wrong,” said Matt.

“A beverage or an extract is much more complicated product than a flower. The consumers were ready for these products to hit the shelves, but due to testing challenges and questions around safe packaging, there were a whole bunch of new products for laboratories to deal with, alongside new regulations.”

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Fighting Food Fraud: The Role of Proficiency Testing in Protecting Product Integrity

Alongside panel discussions, the Measurement Matters virtual symposium featured a number of talks and presentations given by experts from within LGC’s ranks. One such presentation outlined the vital role a quality proficiency testing scheme can play in combating food fraud. Co-hosted by James Sizer, Senior Brand Manager at LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing, and Savvas Xystouris, Technical Development Manager at LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing, the presentation outlined the multitude of ways in which participation in a quality PT scheme offers immense value to laboratories working to fight food fraud.

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“Food fraudsters are stepping up their game,” said Savvas. “A wider range of methods are required to detect and measure incidences of fraud. Proficiency testing is a quality-assurance tool that provides a vital helping hand in the fight against fraud, ensuring that measurement results are reliable, that the analysis provides the required accuracy and specificity.”

Savvas called attention to the widespread adulteration of olive oil, a major food fraud issue for which LGC AXIO offers a number of dedicated PT schemes. “Proficiency testing data can be used to demonstrate competency to customers and regulatory bodies, compare analytical performance with laboratory peers around the world, and, of course, to educate staff and help to very methods and instrumentation.”  

“LGC has been leading the direction of PT for over 40 years,” added James. “We’re always looking to design for the future, whatever a laboratory’s needs are. Whether you’re trying to meet standards specific to a sector or industry, or whether you’re just trying to meet certain accreditation needs, or if you’re looking for consistency in a product, that’s what proficiency testing is there to help you achieve.”

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