Testing your food, cosmetic products

Testing your food, cosmetic products

ROMA – Just what you have been waiting for! The National University of Lesotho (NUL) is prepared to test your food and cosmetic products, among other things, thanks to the arrangement by the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Technology.
Theletsa Mpholle and Mahlomola Hlongoane are literally burning in a desire to start helping you.

For years, the department has helped tens of individuals and institutions to test their products for free.
“However, given the accumulated experience of years of testing, and the unsustainability of being a perpetual “Good Samaritan,” we have decided to test people’s products for a fee,” Hlongoane, a NUL trained Chemical Technologist, said.

It is long overdue! For years, NUL has watched in dismay as local people and businesses from all walks of life took their samples to opulent South African universities for testing while NUL had the same capacity in many cases.
“It turns out it wasn’t their fault, we were not blowing our horn hard enough at the NUL,” Mpholle, another seasoned NUL trained Chemical Technologist, said.

Now, gone are the days of silence in the face of good things! It’s as if these folks have suddenly learned this age-old Biblical secret, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.”

“We want people to know that we can test mainly their foods and cosmetics now, at a fee. We can also test specialised products depending on our capacity, and on a case by case basis,” Mpholle says. But what is this testing and why is it necessary, in the first place?
“The definition sounds simple, but the devil is in the details,” Mpholle says.

“In a nutshell, testing helps both you the product developer and you the consumer to know if your products at least meet certain minimum internationally accepted standards to be in the market.” The reasons for testing range from ensuring that a product is safe health-wise for consumption, to informing a need for further improvements.

The standards can be local or international. “We often base ourselves on standards set by a variety of international bodies because we do not yet have local standards, at least that we are aware of,” Hlongoane says. If they wait for officials to set such standards, they might wait until eternity.

When it comes to nutrition, some folks have made it their hobby to figure out such things as how many calories to eat (or not to eat) in order to gain (or not gain) weight. So reading the figures on the package doesn’t hurt for them.
Then, the testing part.

Among other things, Hlongoane and Mpholle will test such things such as carbohydrates, fats, protein, dietary fibre, and total energy, in your food.
A couple of other things you may want to know can also be tested.
A clean report on how the testing was done and the statistical methods followed will be provided for verification.
Then you can have the results on your product packaging and you can provide the report to retailers who need them.
“We follow a particular protocol for testing,” Mpholle says.
In a generalised version, the following is typical.

First they make their samples ready by homogenizing them. Then they prepare standard solutions. Later they prepare sample solutions in which effort is made to put them on the same phase as standard solutions. “Let’s say we are testing for carbohydrates (carbs),” they say, “After merging our standard solutions with our sample solutions, we use spectrophotometer to measure the absorbance of the solution at a set wavelength for carbs.”
Following Beer’s law, we use the absorbance to find the concentration of the carbs in the sample.
But here is something worth noting.

Repeatability is esteemed in science. “With a combination of a couple of statistics, we make sure that we make as many samples as possible in order to ensure the results are repeatable, and as close a representative of real products as possible,” he says.
In the land of cosmetics, they test such parameters as stability, PH, chloride, chloroform and hydroquinone, among other things and depending on what is being tested.

“Actually, stability and especially PH, are non-negotiable in this world” Hlongoane says.
“Stability can be equated to shelf-life, you don’t want a product that can change color, smell etc, or separate into constituents very soon after being on the shelf.”

PH, as we hinted, is venerated, in fact many products in the market started and ended right there.
That is because all cosmetics come in contact with your skin and your skin is PH sensitive.
Low PH, as those with a bit of chemistry can attest to, is just as bad as high PH on your skin.
“Our job is simple. It is not only to find if your products are at the right conditions, it is also to help you get your products there if they are not,” Hlongoane says.

Own Correspondent

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