Setting the Standard: AOAC Expands Agreement with ISO

In June 2012, AOAC International (AOAC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) signed a cooperation agreement to jointly develop and approve standards specifically related to infant formula and adult nutritionals trade. The agreement also involved collaboration with the International Dairy Federation (IDF), and resulted in the establishment of 12 AOAC/ISO methods which were adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a global member organization that collects standards, guidelines and recommendations related to food production and safety. Codex Alimentarius was established by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in 1961 and joined the World Health Organization the following year.

In October, AOAC and ISO announced the renewal of their partnership, now in its sixth year. To learn more, IBO spoke with Deborah McKenzie, senior director of Standards Development at AOAC, about past accomplishments and future projects as part of its renewed agreement with ISO.


Tangible Results and New Opportunities

The 12 standards developed by AOAC and ISO during their previous agreement were for vitamin B12, myo-inositol, chromium/molybdenum/selenium, nucleotides, vitamins A and E, fatty acid profile, iodine, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, biotin, chloride and vitamin testing. As Ms. McKenzie explained, the establishment of these standards were a major accomplishment of the agreement. “One of the most significant highlights of the AOAC/ISO partnership from previous years has been significant and strategic engagement with ISO TC 34/SC 5 (Milk and Milk Products) [committee], ISO TC 34/WG 14 (Vitamins, Carotenoids and Other Nutrients), and the IDF,” she said. “The partnership has produced 12 jointly approved fit-for-purpose AOAC-ISO/IDF methods for 13 label nutrients for infant and adult/pediatric formula, all of which are designated by Codex as Type II. These are the methods used in international trade for dispute resolution.”

AOAC plans to collaborate with these partners to ensure milk and milk product methods in Codex Alimentarius are adequate, as well. “AOAC, ISO and IDF are working together to review the milk and milk product methods in the Codex Standard on Methods of Analysis and Sampling (CXS234),” continued Ms. McKenzie. “Our organizations are reviewing methods in support of ensuring that the most relevant fit-for-purpose milk and milk product methods are referenced in the Codex standard.”

While AOAC and ISO’s 2012 agreement primarily revolved around milk and milk products, the renewal of the partnership has opened the door to new collaborations with all the subcommittees and working groups of ISO TC 34 (Food Products), according to Ms. McKenzie. “Jointly, AOAC and ISO/IDF are working to update methodology for infant and adult/pediatric formula,” she stated. “Prioritization is given to label nutrients, and these include 31 priority nutrients for which methods are at varying levels of approval, of which 12 are being referenced as Codex Type II for 13 of the nutrients.”

Additional projects are for formula and dairy ingredients. “Other joint efforts include global fit-for-purpose methods for whey protein casein ratio in the formula, and monochloropropane-1,3-diol or 2-chloropropane1,3-diol (MCPD) and glycidol esters (GE) in infant and adult/pediatric formula,” continued Ms. McKenzie. “There is also a joint effort on the measurement for low lactose in milk, and milk products and products that contain dairy ingredients that are low lactose or lactose free.”

“In addition to chromatographic technology, the need for nontargeted analysis may include spectrometry and molecular techniques.”

Food testing involves a number of lab technologies, including GC, LC/MS and sequencing. However, the renewed partnership between AOAC and ISO has not prioritized or specified any lab technologies as part of the new agreement, Ms. McKenzie told IBO. “Many of the methodologies evaluated during the previous agreement employed chromatographic and/or spectrometric (LC and MS) technologies,” she said. “However, as AOAC considers methodology for food authenticity, legalized cannabis and hemp edibles, mycotoxins, infant formula, furans, food allergens, pesticides and others, there are needs for fit-for-purpose methods that employ a variety of technologies.”

These technologies are not limited to chromatography. As new technologies provide expanded opportunities for analysis, the methodologies will evolve accordingly. “In addition to chromatographic technology, the need for nontargeted analysis may include spectrometry and molecular techniques,” Ms. McKenzie stated. “Evolving and emerging technologies such as next generation sequencing, nanotechnology and imaging are advancing beyond traditional techniques for detection, determination and identification of any target analyte in a given commodity matrix; therefore, the opportunities to jointly work on various types of methodologies based on various technologies are as numerous as the analytical needs.”


Future Outlook

AOAC recently added its 17th global section with the addition of Sub-Saharan Africa last month, and is focusing on developing standards that can be applied in all regions around the globe. “As evident with the pursuit of having the jointly adopted fit-for-purpose methods be referenced in the CXS234 with the designation of Type II, the goal is to provide fit-for-purpose methodologies applicable to all regions,” explained Ms. McKenzie. “The Type II designation means that the methods can be used globally to provide analytical solutions to trade disputes.”

At the same time, however, AOAC is also working on a strategy of ensuring methods get implemented in particular countries. “AOAC, through its sections and collaborations with organizations in China and India, is working towards a harmonized approach to ensure that the methods consider regional preferences and matrices, thereby establishing a model for ensuring that methods approved are fit for purpose for specific regions,” continued Ms. McKenzie.

AOAC will collaborate with ISO on a case-by-case basis throughout the agreement, as Ms. McKenzie noted, and there are no specific milestones set in place at this moment. Looking ahead, on March 12, 2019, AOAC will be rolling out its inaugural Analytical Solutions Forum during its Mid-Year Meeting and, according to Ms. McKenzie, the forum will provide an opportunity to learn about arenas that require method development and related solutions.

This Mid-Year Meeting will also see the launch of a Food Authenticity (Fraud) Initiative and the AOAC Cannabis Analytical Solutions Program. “The need for fit-for-purpose method development in [the food authenticity and cannabis] areas is urgent,” said Ms. McKenzie. “As food safety issues arise that require analytical solutions, at least we have a partnership and framework by which to leverage our combined global resources to meet the challenge in support of food safety, food integrity and public health.”