Quality control in manufacturing can focus on microbial stability, chemical stability and analytical assurance, but sensory stability and acceptability to the expected sensory standard is a necessary component of the quality monitoring process – something which can be overlooked or ignored.
More recently, food and drink development has become increasingly complex, which has introduced greater scope for customer complaints. It has become essential for manufacturers to recognise the importance of the application of sensory testing during manufacturing to evaluate product quality more effectively. Previously, simple quality systems were relied upon, however the introduction of the use of calibrated and consistently trained taste panels has received more focus, with some retailers introducing the use of ‘qualified’ taste panels into their manufacturing code of practice for quality.
Qualified trained taste panels are underpinned by a specific process of screening every individual involved, for their sensory acuity; a variety of British Standards offer guidance on the screening and training process. By using assessors who are ‘fit for purpose’, the data obtained will be more valid and reliable, making decisions easier. Sensory methodology for monitoring quality control can be simple or complex, but the foundations of sensory testing should always start with a valuable sensory assessor.
The application of trained sensory panels within manufacturing has been given further impetus by the more focused inclusion of sensory practices within the recent version of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 (BRC 8). Its inclusion and the use of trained and competent assessors in taste panels will therefore have an impact on the manufacturing process and ultimately lead to an enhancement of sensory product quality and product optimisation.
Sue Purcell is section manager, sensory training at Campden BRI