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Climate change, sustainability and resource conservation are key topics of discussion in the research landscape. Like many industries, the food and beverage industry faces growing pressure to embrace sustainable practices.
Despite working towards a shared goal, individual approaches to sustainability vary across industries with each sector taking a different approach depending on the challenges they face. A recent global survey, conducted by Frost & Sullivan for Agilent Technologies, explored analytical laboratories’ attitudes toward sustainability and investigated the challenges associated with running a sustainable lab. From waste reduction to energy optimization, several strategies can be implemented to ensure a lab achieves its sustainability goals without losing efficiency.
In this interview, Dr. Lorna De Leoz, global food segment director at Agilent Technologies, highlights practical advice to make a food and beverage lab more sustainable. She also discusses the role of metrics when establishing sustainability goals and how vendors can work with labs to ensure they achieve these goals.
Steven Gibney (SG): Like all labs, food and beverage labs can have a large environmental impact – whether it is waste from microbiological testing or energy requirements for analytical equipment. What can these labs do to reduce their environmental footprint?
Lorna De Leoz (LDL): There are many ways that food and beverage labs can reduce their environmental footprint. Even the smallest changes in a lab can make a big difference in improving laboratory sustainability. This can include:
SG: The survey highlights the importance of using metrics when trying to achieve sustainability goals. What metrics can labs use to measure their sustainability success?
LDL: We were pleased to see that, overall, 82% of the labs included in this survey have adopted sustainability metrics. These metrics can be adopted by food and beverage testing laboratories to measure their sustainability goals including measuring resource consumption, reducing global greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, recycling and managing laboratory waste, and reducing waste. Monitoring these metrics could help improve the overall sustainability of the laboratory.
SG: Quality control and assurance play a key role in food and beverage research. How do you balance quality control with the growing need to remain sustainable?
LDL: Investing in cutting-edge, modern technology can help ensure you are adhering to quality control while also updating the lab with more environmentally friendly instrumentation, but this is not always an option. Working with vendors who hold themselves accountable and have adopted their own sustainability metrics can help because they can share best practices and advise on the most sustainable way to run optimized workflows. The key is to meet the regulatory limits while employing sustainable workflows. For example, Agilent’s inert ion sources enable hydrogen as a carrier gas while meeting the maximum residue limits for pesticide residues in foods such as spinach. Adding enhanced intelligence in instruments also helps in quality control and assurance without sacrificing performance, such as the automatic carryover detection and reinjection.
SG: What role can vendors play in food and beverage labs achieving their sustainability goals?
LDL: Vendors can play a significant role in helping food and beverage labs achieve their sustainability goals. To help, vendors could:
Vendors should have accountability and have their own sustainability initiatives on reducing carbon emissions.
SG: Improving energy efficiency is a key goal for many labs, what technology is available to food and beverage labs that can help them improve their energy efficiency?
LDL: There are several technologies available that can help these labs improve their energy efficiency. Here are some examples:
Enhanced features on modern instruments can also help reduce downtime by providing health status and warnings if maintenance is needed:
SG: Only 49% of labs perceive information shared by vendors on sustainability as helpful, how can communication between labs and vendors be improved?
LDL: Communication between labs and vendors can be improved by sharing best practices and showing tangible results that labs can relate to. For example, vendors can share their own sustainability practices and certifications, such as the My Green Lab certiﬁcation, which is the gold standard of laboratory sustainability practices. By implementing strict environmental practices in their own labs, vendors can lead by example and better help and advise customers on their own sustainability goals.
SG: What do you think the future of sustainability looks like for the food and beverage industry? Will efforts continue at their current level, or do you think there is room for improvement?
LDL: The future of sustainability in the food and beverage industry is a topic of great interest and importance, and there is always room for improvement. Advanced analytical techniques, data-intelligence technologies and integrated workflows for food safety, quality and authenticity analysis could lead to a more sustainable food industry. Strengthening partnerships with key opinion leaders and encouraging sustainable practices in the food industry could help improve the current state, especially if the government provides a regulatory framework.
Dr. Lorna De Leoz was speaking to Steven Gibney, Science Writer for Technology Networks.
About the interviewee
Dr. Lorna De Leoz has worked at Agilent Technologies for 5 years, and she currently serves as the Global Food Segment Director. She is a proven specialist in mass spectrometry. Before joining Agilent, she earned her PhD in chemistry from the University of California Davis and spent 7 years leading research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).