The organic or natural food sector is on the rise and along with the demand for ‘natural’ foods there is an equally high rate of adulteration. One of the reasons for adulteration is the fluctuation in the supply of authentic natural ingredients. Secondly unscrupulous vendors adulterate natural foods for economic gains, especially as natural ingredients come with a steep price tag. Therefore, food industry has to be wary and have the natural ingredients analysed by food testing laboratories. Similarly suppliers of natural ingredients that have an analysis report from a food testing laboratory can ensure the authenticity of ingredients they supply and gain trust of the food industry.
Food safety risk
Adulteration of natural ingredients can affect the trustworthiness of the entire supply chain and also become a food safety risk. Any ingredient which has been adulterated with an unknown substance is a food safety risk. For example it is financially attractive to mix papaya seeds in pepper corns, sumac leaves in oregano to add bulk. Natural honey is often adulterated with sugar syrup, natural curcumin with synthetic curcuminoids and natural vanilla with synthetic vanillin. However, using the cheaper adulterants can cause a health issue so testing natural ingredients in food testing laboratories is a food safety requirement.
Reasons for adulteration
Increase in demand of natural ingredients, can sometimes not be met, as crop production is variable and so the cheaper adulterants are mixed in. While the intention may not be to cause harm to the consumer, but the fact that there is an unknown ingredient in natural ingredients leads to loss in quality and becomes sub-standard. Food testing of natural ingredients must be conducted anywhere in the supply chain, because the adulterant can be mixed anywhere in the supply chain. Moreover, while synthetic versions of ingredients might not really cause harm but the fact is that it then cannot be labelled ‘natural’ as that would lead to issues of making incorrect label claims.
Methods of adulteration food testing
Food testing laboratories use a number of adulteration testing methods like gas chromatography-mass spectrometry that can identify the differences in the chemical composition of ingredients. Another method that is becoming popular in testing ‘natural’ ingredients is carbon -14 testing which is used to distinguish between bio-based products and petroleum-based materials. The detection is possible as living or recently decayed plants contain carbon but petroleum based products do not have carbon content. Since, the adulteration methods are all different, therefore the methods used by testing laboratories also need to be varied according to types of adulteration.
There are always plenty of opportunities of adulteration along the supply chain so as a manufacturer of natural products it is important you get all batches of ingredients tested in a recognised chemical testing laboratory. Recognised food testing laboratories have the expertise and sophisticated instrumentation to detect all the various adulterants and so the analyses report will enable you to prove the purity of the natural ingredients you use in your natural products.