Bruker targets honey fraud and authenticity with FoodScreeners

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Typical Example for Honey Profiling:Detection of adulterated sample (black) despite natural variability (colored area)
Typical Example for Honey Profiling:Detection of adulterated sample (black) despite natural variability (colored area)

Related tags: Olive oil

Bruker has launched a FoodScreener module for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) based profiling of honey to determine authenticity and stop fraud.

Honey Profiling will be an NMR-based screening method which evaluates parameters related to quality and authenticity from a single data set within minutes.

It delivers targeted and non-targeted analysis to identify and quantify honey characteristics, including sugar, acid and amino acid content as well as frauds such as addition of different types of syrup or other sugars.

The database for the Honey-Profiling contains thousands of samples due to support from Quality Services International and ALNuMed and will be updated with more samples in the future.

‘Anything expensive is target for fraud’

Dr Manfred Spraul, chief technology officer at Bruker BioSpin’s Applied, Industrial and Clinical (AIC) division, said the honey database was started three years ago and has passed 3,000 samples.

“We waited to get to this number in the database to have a selection before release, it is not sufficient to cover all areas but that will come in the next releases,” ​he told FoodQualityNews.

“Manuka honey is the most expensive in the market and the reason is methylglyoxal​ (MGO​)which is supposed to have health benefit properties including against inflammation. Anything expensive is a target for fraud.

“We have 16,000 samples in wine from the past four to five years on the wine database and it is a similar project for honey and at a similar speed. For fruit juice we are at 24,000 samples.”

Statistical models allow analysis of origin authenticity, species purity, false labeling, production process control and sample similarity.

The models help with the analysis of authenticity according to honey variety (such as blossom, honeydew, linden, lavender, chestnut, pine) and according to geographical origin.

Honey fraud is possible in several ways such as adding sugar syrup, which shows larger sugar molecules and a different spectra pattern.

Benefits of NMR

NMR is used in authenticity and food quality and is growing in use while it is still justified to use mass spectrometry for food safety, said Spraul.

“In honey we do not have global standards like in wine or official methods and different conditions in different countries lead to sample variability.

“With NMR we are not seeing everything, it is not as sensitive as mass spectrometry so we are not talking about pesticides which are beyond the limit of NMR but you can look for different parameters in one go. If you use another technique each additional step before measurement can lead to additional variation in samples.

“But a food safety example with NMR is the melamine scandal in China, this would have been detected in untargeted mode.”

FoodScreener future

Spraul said it will continue to build the samples in the honey database.

“There might be a new variety or geographic region that produces honey or we might have to respond to a new fraud. 

“There are many other matrixes and we are looking at edible oils, olive oil is it virgin or extra virgin olive oil and is it from Italy or Greece because there was low harvesting last year for countries in the Mediterranean and a lack of material can lead to fraud.”

Prof. Dr Stephan Schwarzinger, managing director of ALNuMed in Germany, said honey is high in demand but low in supply due to a number of reasons.

“Consequently, the number of adulterated products in the market was strongly increasing in the recent years.

“Adulteration - including wrong declaration of the geographic origin - is becoming more difficult to prove by single parameters.

“Hence, in our experience a quantitative multi-parametric approach such as the NMR-based Honey-Profiling currently presents the best choice for proving the authenticity of a honey."

Bruker also released the second generation module of the FoodScreener for wine profiling at Pittcon.

It can determine geographical origin, grape variety, vintage year and possible water addition and the updated version includes France, Italy and Spain.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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