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NMR Food Screening

Should a manufacturer market contaminated products, the effects would be wide-reaching and have potentially devastating consequences. This was exemplified by the discovery that the industrial chemical melamine had been added to baby formula milk.

In addition, some unscrupulous manufacturers are taking advantage of the fact that the increasingly global nature of the food industry has made it very difficult to trace the true origins of purchased ingredients. In order to maximise profit margins, some food products have been bulked out with similar but cheaper alternatives. The practice was highlighted by the horsemeat scandal, where beef mixed with cheaper horse meat was sold as pure beef, but it continues to pose a problem for a wide range of products, including virgin olive oil, honey, agave syrup and wine.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) provides a characteristic peak for each compound in a mixture. It can provide simultaneous identification and absolute quantification of all components of a sample. The NMR spectra for a test sample are checked against spectral libraries of known mixtures to identify whether any of the required constituents are missing or an additional unexpected ingredient is present.

Bruker has tailored this technology specifically for the analysis of food. The FoodScreener™ provides the NMR fingerprint specific to an individual sample. The profile can then be compared with a large database of spectra for known authentic samples. This innovative instrument provides a valuable tool for quality control monitoring and testing for purity and authenticity issues.