As consumers who prioritize sustainable foods and organic products, we are more than happy to spend that little bit extra if it means we can enhance our diets with healthier, better-quality food that is organically produced and more nutrient-rich. But how can we be sure that the products we place in our shopping carts really are organic?
Experts and laboratories like Professor Yu-wei Yuan and his team at the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ZAAS) are commissioned to literally place such products under the microscope using isotope-ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS). “Traces of pesticides, the content of heavy metals and other parameters must conform to requirements, and feedstocks must be of organic origin,” explains Professor Yu-wei.
But organic products are not the only ones increasingly being falsely marketed. Honey in particular is one of the most common counterfeits, marketed as a 100% natural product. So much so that Netflix dedicated an entire episode of its series Rotten to the honey business – or rather the fake honey business (season 1, episode 1: Lawyers, Guns & Honey). Luckily, there are laboratories such as Intertek that use complex analysis methods to determine where sugar has been added or whether honey declared as Manuka honey really does come from New Zealand. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR spectroscopy) analysis is typically used for this. Other advantages of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy include the ability to analyze samples without the need for database validation. Take a look at our whitepaper for a more detailed comparison of the two analysis methods.
In his article “Is our food really what it says?”, Mike Seed looks at other foods (including water, tea and wine) that are victims of “food fraud.”