New methodology developed for food analysis

New methodology developed for food analysis
Andreas Dunkel and Christoph Hofstetter

A new methodology for the simultaneous analysis of odorants and tastants could simplify and accelerate the quality control of food in the future.

So says scientists at the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology located in the Technical University of Munich (TUM) who developed the new methodology – published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

Whether a food tastes good or not is essentially determined by the interaction of odours and tastants. A few trillionths of a gram per kilogram of food is enough to perceive some odorants. Tastants, on the other hand, we only recognise at significantly higher concentrations.

In order to guarantee consistent sensory quality, it is very important for manufacturers to know and control the characteristic odour and taste profiles of their products from the raw material to the finished product. This requires a fast but precise food analysis.

Tastants and aroma substances, however, differ greatly in their chemical and physical properties.

As a result, food chemists currently use very different methods to determine the exact nature and quantity of odorants and tastants in a raw material or food. Especially aroma analyses are very time-consuming and therefore expensive. This limits the high-throughput analysis of numerous samples.

“We have now developed a new, innovative methodical approach that will enable us to examine food simultaneously for both odorants and tastants in a time-saving high-throughput process,” said Thomas Hofmann, Director of the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology and Professor of Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science at the TUM.

“It is based on an ultra-high performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS) method typically used for taste analysis.”

The new and time-saving feature of the developed approach is that volatile odorous substances can now also be analysed by means of an upstream enrichment or substance conversion step using this method, which is otherwise not used for aromatic substances.

Andreas Dunkel, Senior Scientist at the Leibniz-Institute of Food Systems Biology, said: “We have tested our new methodological approach using apple juice as an example. The results are very promising.

“Together with doctoral student Christoph Hofstetter from the TUM, he was substantially involved in the development of the new approach.”

According to the scientists, the new method makes it possible for the first time to analyse a large number of samples in a very short time with regard to their taste and odour giving ingredients.

The researchers hope to be able to further develop the method so that it can be used by food manufacturers in the future to quickly and easily monitor the flavour of food along the entire value chain and, if necessary, optimise it.

The new method could also be used to stop food fraud. “Using the identified flavour profiles, it would be possible to check the origin and quality label of the manufacturers and detect food fraud,” says Dunkel.