honey (7)

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Animal origin food products, including fish and seafood, meat and poultry, milk and dairy foods, and other related products play significant roles in human nutrition. However, fraud in this food sector frequently occurs, leading to negative economic impacts on consumers and potential risks to public health and the environment. Therefore, the development of analytical techniques that can rapidly detect fraud and verify the authenticity of such products is of paramount importance.


Traditionally, a wide variety of targeted approaches, such as chemical, chromatographic, molecular, and protein-based techniques, among others, have been frequently used to identify animal species, production methods, provenance, and processing of food products. Although these conventional methods are accurate and reliable, they are destructive, time-consuming, and can only be employed at the laboratory scale. On the contrary, alternative methods based mainly on spectroscopy have emerged in recent years as invaluable tools to overcome most of the limitations associated with
traditional measurements. The number of scientific studies reporting on various authenticity issues investigated by vibrational spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, and fluorescence spectroscopy has increased substantially over the past few years, indicating the tremendous potential of these techniques in the fight against food fraud.

This manuscript reviews the state-of-the-art research advances since 2015 regarding the use of analytical methods applied to detect fraud in food products of animal origin, with particular attention paid to spectroscopic measurements coupled with chemometric analysis. The opportunities and challenges surrounding the use of spectroscopic techniques and possible future directions are also be discussed.

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 AOAC International's Food Authenticity Task Force has developed standard method performance requirements (SMPR) for targeted and non-targeted food authenticity methods. SMPR set minimum performance criteria that food authenticity testing methods for milk, honey and olive oil need to fulfill. 

Further information was provided in a recent free-of-charge webinar, which can be viewed on registration.

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An interlaboratory comparison (ILC) was organised by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre to provide an opportunity for interested laboratories to assess and compare their competence in determining the 13C/12C ratios of fructose, glucose, di- and trisaccharides in honey by using liquid chromatography – isotope ratio mass spectrometry (LC-IRMS).

Fourteen laboratories participated in the ILC and tested six honey samples. The majority of the participating laboratories demonstrated the proficient use of the applied LC-IRMS for mono-, di- and trisaccharides in honey, which will allow them to apply the technique for detecting adulterated honey samples within the scope of the method. Further guidance on the proper detection and evaluation of the oligosaccharide fraction will be needed to provide proof that the method is fit for compliance assessment of honey with purity criteria.

In general, the results of the ILC demonstrate that LC-IRMS is a suitable technique for determining carbon isotope ratios of fructose, glucose, di- and trisaccharides in honey with sufficient precision and it is fit for assessing whether sugar syrups have been added to honey, within the limits of the method.

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The Government Chemist, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) held a UK seminar on honey authenticity: determination of exogenous sugars by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) on 13 November 2019, which was attended by 57 people representing stakeholder organisations.

The aim of the seminar was to bring together stakeholders involved in honey production and analysis to discuss this topic and ideally come to an agreed position. It was anticipated that the output of this seminar would help inform future UK government policy on the use of NMR for honey authenticity.

The seminar consisted of a series of presentations from invited experts that set the scene for the workshop part of the day, which involved participants splitting into four representative groups to discuss the suitability of NMR for enforcement purposes and to identify gaps and priorities to assessing the use of NMR for the appraisal of honey authenticity.

The report details the aims and outputs of the seminar.Honey authenticity: determination of exogenous sugars by NMR Seminar Report (PDF, 913KB, 19 pages)

Presentations are also available

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Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has increasingly been applied in the field of food authenticitation. Its instrumental variability is very low so that it is possible to compile large databases of authentic spectra. This review discusses the application of NMR for authenticating honey, beer and spices. For honey, it is possible to verify the botanical origin and exclude adulteration with sugars. In beer analysis, it is possible to distinguish between major beer types and to detect the geographical origin of beer. In spice analysis, NMR allows to detect crude adulterations (e.g. of saffron) or quantify marker ingredients such as essential oils.

                 Read the full review at: NMR authentication

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