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Independent food-testing laboratory to open in Sudbury

Capella Innovation will serve food producers in Northern Ontario and beyond
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Microbiologist Navin Asokumar of Capella Innovation (Supplied photo)

Food and beverage regulations in Canada are complex, and ever-changing.  

Registered dietitian Lucie Plante said that finding the right information can be especially challenging for new food producers in Northern Ontario. 

“When people are starting out, they don't know where to go and who to talk to,” she said. 

“We can help navigate the process with Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.” 

Plante is the lab manager and president of Capella Innovation, a new food-testing laboratory in Sudbury, which will open sometime late this winter. 

The lab specializes in food microbiology, nutrition labelling, and sensory evaluation. It comes equipped with state-of-the-art technology, purchased with the help of funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and private investment. 

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Plante and her team will deliver a range of services including food analysis, food research and development for new and existing products, HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) and ISO 9001 implementation. 

They will test for food-borne pathogens, like E. Coli, listeria, and salmonella, and help food producers assess the quality of their products.  

Food analysis will be conducted using the Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International, and microbiology testing will be conducted using the Compendium of Analytical Methods for food testing from Health Canada. 

Capella will also offer beverage-testing services. Plante uses ASBC Methods of Analysis for beer, and the Compendium of International Methods of Analysis of Wine and Musts. 

The standards used are recognized internationally. 

Other services include allergen testing, UPC barcodes and QR codes services, food packaging and shelf life testing. 

Beverages will be tested using Anton-Paar equipment that measures things like alcohol content, degree of fermentation, bitterness, and caloric content in wine, beer, spirits, cider and kombucha. 

By the end of the year, they hope to also be able to accommodate cannabis edibles. While the lab won't perform analysis on the plant itself, they will be able to test things like THC levels in food products. 

Plante said that for her, the lab is a “dream come true.” She has been working on establishing the business for the last two years with the help of André Ferron, a professor at Collège Boréal, who has a PhD in biology from McGill University. 

Navin Asokumar is Capella's resident microbiologist. He holds a master's degree from the University of Waterloo. 

The lab is currently looking to add a chemist, an agronomist, and various support staff to the team. 

While their ultimate goal is to serve Northern Ontario, Plante said that they won't turn anyone away. 

Ferron anticipates that the lab might find customers in the northwest region of Québec because food producers in the area are quite far from the laboratories located in larger city centres like Montréal.

According to Plante, because the regulations they are using are federal, it is possible for them to do business across provincial lines. 

“There's a lot of diversity in food producers,” said Ferron.

“People often don't realize. There are cheese producers, meat processors, fish processing plants, a shrimp aquaculture not far from Sudbury. People in Northern Ontario are producing all kinds of products, and we have the expertise to test them.”