PerkinElmer software targets food adulterants

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

PerkinElmer Adulterant Screen
PerkinElmer Adulterant Screen

Related tags: Spectroscopy

PerkinElmer has launched software to detect known and unknown contaminants in ingredients to guard against adulteration.   

Adulterant Screen works with the firm’s Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) and Near Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy instruments to make a hardware and software system to confirm authenticity and perform nutritional analysis in one step. 

The automated tool can help food industry professionals evaluate the integrity of ingredients to guard against existing and potential adulteration threats. 

Targeted and non-targeted searches

Rob Packer, senior manager of food strategy at PerkinElmer, said the algorithm helps the search for molecules which are adulterants such as melamine or nitrogen-based contaminants in milk.  

“The adulterant can be detected in olive oil or spices as the software targets the likely material, or it can be the higher end of the road commodities such as saffron or vanilla spices," ​he told FoodQualityNews.

“Milk is not a high price commodity but it is susceptible because of the protein.”

Packer said it can be used for targeted and non-targeted searches.

“If you find something is wrong you can use chromatography or mass spectrometry to identify what the adulterant is,” ​he said.

“It has a library of possible contaminants, for milk there are about 20 possible adulterants, and if it is not in the list but it is abnormal you can send for further testing and then put it in the library after.

“IR is not for parts per billion or parts per trillion analysis but adulteration is usually for financial gain so they put quite a bit in there. When we say a lot we mean between the 0.1% and 10% range. Most of the time it is accidental contamination but there will be higher levels to make it worth adulterating.

“The scary thing is, for example in honey, these people know the test to verify whether it is high fructose corn syrup or honey Carbon-13.”

The software can screen for adulterants in olive oil, cocoa powder, spices, honey, maple syrup, coffee and liquid milk. 

It has a green light/red light, “pass/fail” results system making it easy to use regardless of the knowledge level of users.

Packer said the firm has worked on simplifying tests for a while and called on its experience in the pharmaceutical sector when it comes to sample variability.

“Man-made samples do not vary that much but nature doesn’t work like that. Milk powder from the UK might differ than China and also if you buy from multiple sources, so it measures and builds in the variation,” ​he said.

“Industry is aware there is a problem and it is doing a great job using equipment to prevent for accidental contamination.

“Food fraud needs solutions, first detect and then deter. The global food chain is complicated, horse meat showed most companies know their previous step but not three or four steps back."

PerkinElmer is also at Pittcon (8-12 March) where it will be showing the Perten DA 7250 NIR Analyzer, LAMBDA 265, 365, 465 UV/Vis systems and Altus HPLC system among other systems.   

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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