Paine Schwartz Partners portfolio company FoodChain ID has acquired Diversified Laboratories, an analytical laboratory specializing in the detection of pesticide, chemical, and antibiotic residues and quality measurements in food and animal feed products. FoodChain ID monitors and detects food safety, quality and sustainability issues for its clients using a range of services including certification, verification, and testing.
“The acquisition of Diversified enables FoodChain ID to provide a more comprehensive contaminants testing solution while offering our customers industry-leading turnaround times,” FoodChain ID CEO Brad Riemenapp said in a statement announcing the acquisition. “Diversified brings a complementary set of expertise and capabilities that expand our market-leading portfolio of broader technology-enabled solutions and accelerates FoodChain ID’s strategic innovation initiatives. We look forward to working closely with Peter and his team to serve customers and drive growth in the new food economy.”
Diversified isn’t a new sexy startup. It was launched in 1977 and has operated as a USDA-accredited lab specializing in the rapid detection and reporting of over 600 types of pesticides, PCBs, dioxins, antibiotics, mycotoxins, and other chemical contaminants in human food and animal feed products. It claims that its state-of-the-art facility is the only independent laboratory in the US that is USDA accredited for chlorinated hydrocarbons and PCB testing. It also boasts long-standing relationships across a diverse customer base, from poultry and animal feed producers to food ingredient suppliers throughout the US.
“We believe the combination with FoodChain ID will enable us to expand our customer base globally, develop new testing methodologies, and enhance our technical capabilities. As part of FoodChain ID, we will be able to offer testing solutions across the food supply chain and will offer services that are even more comprehensive to our customers,” Diversified CEO Peter Kendrick said in the statement.
Rapid testing technology has been an in-demand innovation throughout the supply chain in the agrifood tech world, including everything from pathogen testing in cannabis to microbiome testing in soil. The downstream demand for transparency when it comes to contaminants in food is largely being driven by consumers’ increasing curiosity about where their food comes from and what it contains.
Pesticides in the pantry
Pesticides are a controversial topic in some circles these days, with Bayer’s continued court battle over the alleged carcinogenic nature of its glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup catching major media attention. Although ag biotech startups are hard at work developing the next generation of bio-based inputs in lieu of chemical inputs, the FDA revealed last year that it found glyphosate residues on more than 40% of food items sampled, including things like granola and crackers, raising alarm for many concerned consumers.
Earlier this month, As You Sow released it Pesticides in the Pantry report examining risks associated with synthetic pesticides in agricultural supply chains. The report scores 14 major US agrifood companies on their performance across 30 indicators designed to assess how effectively companies are reducing pesticide risk.
Out of a total possible score of 30, General Mills (18 points) and PepsiCo (14 points) earned the most points with Post and B&G Foods scoring the lowest (0 points each) followed by Kraft Heinz, Conagra, and J.M. Smucker (2 points each). While most of the companies surveyed have some form of sustainable sourcing program in place for their supply chains, such programs lack clear criteria and almost none include pesticide use as an indicator within those programs.
“Most of the companies we surveyed scored very low in this first year; on the whole, food manufacturers are not taking adequate action to address pesticides in their supply chains,” said Christy Spees, environmental health program manager of As You Sow, said in a statement announcing the results. “There were, however, leaders in the pack as well as noteworthy practices that will help guide others to take action.”
This ongoing issue of pesticide residue in food will make rapid lab testing services a hot commodity for agrifood companies.
Antibiotics in our food
Diversified’s technology may come in handy when it comes to assessing antibiotic residues in food, although the CDC’s recently released 2019 Antibiotic Resistance Threats Report shows that there has been an 18% decline in antibiotic resistant-associated deaths since 2013. Each year, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi are responsible for roughly 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths, according to the agency. Roughly 85% of infections were contracted during visits to healthcare facilities.
Livestock has been a key theme in the discussion around combatting antibiotic resistance. Livestock carries bacteria in their gut, according to the CDC, which can be spread to meat through the slaughtering and processing stages. Animal waste can also contain bacteria that can contaminate soil, water, clothing, and other surfaces merely through contact.
The USDA has made a number of moves to tighten antibiotic usage in both livestock and companion animals, including phasing in a law that will require prescriptions for any antibiotic in use in animals raised for human food consumption as well as companion animals. Most antibiotics already require a prescription, but there are three remaining classes of injectable antibiotics available over-the-counter at feed stores or via online sales. These three classes are being added to the list of medically important antibiotics that require a veterinarian’s prescription.