Instrumental Color Quality Control Smooths Out Raw Materials Variation in Whipped Cream Production

“I think it’s gone bad,” says Ken. “Is that possible? I didn’t think that was possible. Maybe I shouldn’t eat this.” He looks down at the slice of cake in front of him, topped in a greenish-grey approximation of whipped cream. “But I made it special for your birthday!” says Jen. “You mean you don’t like it?” Her eyes widen, and she starts to get up from the table, reaching to clear Ken’s plate. “No, I like it,” he says. “Really, I like it. It looks great! I know you put a lot of work into it. Just maybe the cream in the can get a little old. The cake looks awesome. Here, I’ll just scrape the cream away.” Jen smiles and sits back down as Ken scrapes the cream off the cake. It still looks a little gross where the cream used to be, but Ken puts on a smile and swallows a bite. “Delicious,” he says, and as he looks across the table at Jen, it really is. “That’s weird,” she says. “That it’s so old. I just got it yesterday.” Ken looks back at the puddle of melting cream on the edge of his plate. It looks grosser than before. He turns back to Jen and says: “Maybe try a different brand next year?”

 

whipped cream on pancakes
Good whipped cream can make a good meal better. Image Credit: Flickr User Hideya HAMANO (CC BY 2.0)

 

 

Raw Materials Variation Can Create Brand Inconsistency

 

Customers expect their whipped cream to be a particular shade of white. Not just any white, but the exact same white that it’s been every time they’ve pressed down the nozzle and covered their strawberry shortcake in foamy cream. For manufacturers, this means that special care must be taken to ensure that customers get the cream they expect. Any color deviations can raise concerns in customers. If the color of the cream is different, they will wonder if other properties may be different as well and if it is safe to eat. These concerns can lead them to think twice before purchasing a bottle of the same brand the next time they shop. This can potentially cost a company a lifetime’s worth of sales.

 

However, maintaining a standard color in whipped cream products can be easier said than done. The principal ingredient1 of whipped cream is milk, which can exhibit a spectrum of different colors depending on factors including the health, diet, and age of the cows it comes from. Both the overall amount of fat in the cream, and its liquid or crystalline properties, can vary as well. Process variations, such as temperature fluctuation during pasteurization, can affect the final product color as well.

 

whipped cream on brownie
Manufacturers use spectrophotometers to ensure each batch of whipped cream is the same shade of white. Image Credit: Flickr User jeffreyw (CC BY 2.0)

 

 

Spectrophotometers Ensure Whipped Cream Meets Color Standards

 

In order to catch any color deviation resulting from differences in raw materials or production processes, whipped cream manufacturers rely on instrumental color quality control. Instruments known as spectrophotometers can objectively assess the color of opaque objects such as whipped cream with a very high degree of repeatability. These instruments measure the color of objects using reflectance spectrophotometry.

 

Unlike human observers, spectrophotometers can translate color into a numerical value. To obtain an objective color value, a quality control technician simply places the sample in the instrument, presses a button, and notes whether the numerical output falls within established tolerance standards. No matter who the technician is or in which facility they’re located, the measurement will be the same.

 

With over six decades of experience designing spectrophotometers for the food industry, HunterLab has become a trusted name in instrumental color quality control. If you’re interested in learning more about which spectrophotometer can best improve your production process, contact our friendly, professional representatives today.

 

Spectrophotometers Identify Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals With Color Measurement

The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012 estimated that the global market for counterfeit pharmaceuticals generated $431 billion in gross annual revenues1 for purveyors of those fake products. Since then, WHO has stopped estimating the counterfeit industry’s revenues because of the difficulties in tracking fake prescription drugs. WHO is quick to note that the counterfeit pharmaceutical problem is not confined to developing countries with lax regulations. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seized more than $73 million worth of counterfeit drugs, and since 2010, the FDA has tracked and recorded more than 1,400 incidents of adverse reactions caused by counterfeit drugs2.   

 

pills
Counterfeit pharmaceutical products run rampant through internet pharmacies. Image Credit: Flickr User Carlos Lowry (CC BY 2.0)

 

The prevalence of internet pharmacies has elevated the problem to near epic proportions. WHO estimates that more than half of all pharmaceuticals sold over the Internet are counterfeit3. Consumers that buy cheap drugs online, even when their purchases are made from internet pharmacies that appear in every respect to be legitimate, are taking great risks with their own health and safety. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals might be compounded from ingredients that range from inert to harmful or adulterated. Consumers cannot be faulted for attempting to save money on prescription drugs, but they are ill-equipped to detect counterfeit products and inevitably they rely on manufacturers and regulatory authorities to keep the fakes off of the market.

 

At an extreme, regulators and pharmaceutical companies can implement plans to test batches of pharmaceuticals at various stages of the global supply chain with gas chromatography and other sophisticated technologies4. These technologies will distinguish genuine products from knockoffs, but their broad implementation is expensive and impractical. Moreover, local regulatory agencies and shipping inspectors will not have the resources or access to complex analytical tools to implement the kind of widespread screenings that are required to snag every counterfeit pharmaceutical product. A more practical option is to use portable spectrophotometers for rapid early screening of both the pharmaceuticals and their packaging as the first line of defense against counterfeit drugs.

 

Tylenol
Pharmaceutical companies can impede counterfeiters by publishing precise color profiles of their labels. Image Credit: Flickr User Austin Kirk (CC BY 2.0)

 

Color and Pharmaceutical Packaging

 

Legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturers use advanced packaging with holograms, bar codes, and other features to confirm that the enclosed products are real. Packaging color is as critical an indicator of legitimacy as these advanced features.

 

Consumers generally avoid products with inconsistent or dubious packaging5, but consumers that purchase pharmaceuticals from internet pharmacies do not have the luxury of picking and choosing. Counterfeiters might take advantage of this by using cheaper printing and packaging materials. This leaves an opening for a legitimate manufacturer to publish a color profile for its own packaging. Screeners and regulators can then use portable spectrophotometers to measure a pharmaceutical product’s packaging for comparison against a manufacturer’s standard color profile. Any differences will be a first marker of counterfeiting that the regulator can then use to flag a batch for more advanced testing and verification.

 

Drug Color Consistency

 

Counterfeiters are becoming more adept at replicating the appearance of legitimate drugs, but subtle color differences between real and fake drugs are still a strong indication of a counterfeit product. Strict FDA standards on drug production result in products that have identical colors and appearances from batch to batch. Even more so than with pharmaceutical packaging, manufacturers can create color profiles for each of their products. They can then use portable spectrophotometers for quality control and assurance during a manufacturing process. Regulators can also use these devices to sample drug products in supply chains in order to weed out any products that are outside of that profile. Without their own spectrophotometers, counterfeiters will be unable to precisely match the exact profiles of the drugs they are emulating. Certain spectrophotometers can detect differences on UV wavelengths, which would be invisible to the naked eye. This makes color profiles even more difficult to fake without instrumental aid.

 

Using HunterLab’s Devices to Detect Counterfeit Drugs

 

HunterLab has long been at the forefront of providing appearance and color testing instrumentation to the pharmaceutical industry.  To measure both opaque substances at UV wavelengths, regulators can use the UltraScan Vis or Pro.

To learn more about which instrument would be ideal for your production process, contact our friendly, professional sales force today.

  1. “Deadly fake Viagra: Online pharmacies suspected of selling counterfeit drugs,” 2015,  http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/31/health/counterfeit-medications/
  2. “Counterfeit Drugs Are Flooding the Nation’s Pharmacies And Hospitals,” 2016, http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2016/counterfeit-prescription-drugs-rx.html
  3. “Rise in online pharmacies sees counterfeit drugs go global,” 2015, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)00394-3/fulltext?rss%3Dyes
  4. “Countering the Problem of Falsified and Substandard Drugs,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK202524/
  5. “Combat counterfeiting with packaging design and color consistency,” 2016, http://www.packagingdigest.com/packaging-design/combat-counterfeiting-with-packaging-design-and-color-consistency-2016-02-17

Colorimetric Scores: Making Sure Your Tomatoes Make the Grade

The bright red color of the tomato can tell us a lot about quality and nutrition.

Color terminology has been changing; what we once called red is now referred to as magenta. Well, you know how the song goes: “you say tomato; I saw tomahto.” However, when it comes to color there is only one standard by which to abide.

Colorimetric scores are an important component for quantifying color in order to create the measurements needed to relate product quality to a grading scale. These scores have been developed through extensive research and analysis of tomato products at various stages of production to ensure color consistency and maturity. Various colorimetric methods and spectrophotometers have been used to revolutionize the tomato industry and lead to higher standards in all tomato-based products. Continue reading

Color Psychology: Subliminal Messaging, Courtesy of Your Local Pharmacy

pill color comic
What are your pills telling you?
Image Source: www.glasbergen.com

Numerous studies have recently been conducted regarding color psychology. Color can tell us a lot about who we are, how we are feeling, and the choices we make. Why do people prefer their lemonade pink? And why is that “little pill” blue? Well, it is certainly not by accident. As human beings, there is a direct correlation between our senses and color. Color psychology not only impacts our internal thought processes, it also has a great deal of influence on consumerism — especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals. All major drug corporations know that color is one of the most important ingredients in prescription medications. That is why they depend on the highest levels of color technology and spectrophotometry in order to maintain consistency and accuracy in their product. Continue reading

Color-Coding Technology: 50 Shades of Grey Pills?

Color-coding technology may be one of the most valuable tools to consider when it comes to prescription medications. The rainbow of pills lining the shelves of our local drug stores do not simply appeal to an eccentric and liberal palate; they are a product of color-coding technology that is used to provide security to both the patient and the healthcare industry. Pharmaceutical companies know the importance of quality control and color application in the production of prescription medications and the equipment needed to maintain safety. Spectrophotometers provide the essential piece of technology needed to monitor and develop pharmaceutical products that are easy to identify, which can play a crucial role towards eliminating the extensive margin of human error.

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The Taste of Success: How Colorimetry Can Exploit the Brain’s Perception of Food Quality

Green to yellow bananas
Color is a deciding factor for consumers when it comes to food choices. Food has to “look right” to “taste right.”
Image source: Flickr user Ian Ransley

Colorimetry has been used in a variety of scientific studies to create specific color standards and visual comparisons. The standards and comparisons within this field can be of great value when evaluating color and consistently repeating data. Test results in colorimetrics through the use of spectrophotometers can give us a wealth of information about the choices we make that are dependent on color, especially those involving the foods we eat.

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Color Perception Meets Consumer Desires: How to Set the Mood with the Hues of Food

Color perception is the link between how the human eye perceives color and the way the brain processes that information to affect our moods and choices. Scientific research in the area of color perception has revealed that there is a great variation between how each individual sees and views color, yet our brains continually process this information in relatively the same way. The way that humans perceive color plays an important role on the choices we make, especially when it comes to our food selections.

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