Natural Products Authenticity Testing

Using techniques for stable isotope and radiocarbon measurement

During the 1990s, the CAIS pioneered the development of isotopic analytical methods that are now routinely used to differentiate natural and synthetic flavors, ingredients, and manufacturing methods for the detection of adulteration in food and beverage products.

Why test for naturalness? Naturally-derived components of foods, flavors, and beverages are obtained through expensive and time-consuming extractive procedures. Yet with present technology, botanical extracts and essential oils can be replaced by materials that can be inexpensively synthesized from fossil fuels, and in sufficient purity so as to be chemically identical to their natural, botanically grown counterparts. The growing consumer demand for naturally-derived materials in foods, flavors, and beverages provides an economic incentive to fraudulently label a synthetic food product component as “natural”, thus, it is necessary to be able to distinguish the different materials.

The CAIS works closely with the food and beverage industry, using isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) to maintain a database of discrete ranges of values for the stable isotope ratios of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen in natural products. Stable isotope measurement techniques are combined with radiocarbon (C-14) measurement techniques to characterize source materials and process of formation - as natural vs. synthetic - for a large number of compounds.

More recently, the CAIS has merged the technique of gas chromatographic (GC) separation of complex mixtures with IRMS techniques to enable the isotopic characterization of the various individual constituents of complex organic compounds, thus expanding the capability for analysis of food, flavoring, and beverage products. More »

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For further information contact Dr. Randy Culp (706) 542-6122