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Metabolomic fingerprinting to fight organic origin fraud

European researchers have been able to successfully determine the origin of organic carrots via metabolomic fingerprinting, paving the way for an approach to authenticate organic food in the future and fight food fraud.

Carried out by the European Commission's Joint Research Council (JRC), the study sought to investigate whether agronomic production techniques – such as soil quality, water and fertiliser management – affected the metabolite composition of carrots and whether this could be used to build models to predict the origin of the vegetable.

The researchers found they could correctly classify 100 per cent of unknown samples according to agricultural practices when using yearly harvested samples over four years.

"The results obtained indicate that metabolomics, using a multivariate analysis approach, is a promising tool to discriminate between agricultural systems… The results obtained indicate that the production system has a systematic influence on the carrot's metabolome," the researchers wrote in the journal Food Chemistry. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that a metabolomics approach has been used for organic food authentication purposes in a long-term (four years) field study and by using external validation sample sets to predict the origin of unknown samples."

Organic products have increased in popularity in recent years, while their premium price tags make them an attractive target for food fraudsters, who are labelling conventional products as organic.

The EU has targeted increased traceability in the organic sector, along with other food products, with the introduction earlier this year of greater controls to crackdown on food fraud.

However, the researchers wrote that "due to the lack of sound analytical methodology to distinguish organically and conventionally grown crops and in response to EU legislation (Regulation (EC) No 834/2007), analytical methods that can distinguish between both agricultural systems are needed".

Click here to learn more at www.sciencedirect.com.

Publication date: 8/10/2017


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