Sunday, May 1, 2011

What is Metabolomics?

Case 3: Raw Material Sourcing and Purity

Are my ingredients really from as is listed on the package? Are they pure? The food processing industry is continually being confronted with the need to guarantee purity of product and sustainability. Furthermore, higher quality products command higher prices. Orange juice concentrate is more expensive than that of mandarin juice; Basmati rice is three to four times more expensive than other non-fragrant long-grain rices; extra virgin olive oils from certain regions of Italy and Spain have been specially developed for exclusive markets; wine and coffee from one specific local region often costs more than others produced close-by. But how to know? Adulteration using cheaper variants is a constant problem—even a 10-20% dilution of an expensive product with a cheaper one can hugely bump up profit margins for the supplier.

Several metabolomics tools are currently in development to provide rapid, large-scale screening methods for basic raw materials. The Juice Screener as developed by Bruker is one such tool that is already on the market. With this tool a set of chemical biomarkers have been identified that can be used to both predict location of origin of fruit juice concentrates and also potential levels of adulteration down to 10%. Additional applications for other markets (e.g. the wine industry) are in development.

The next installment of this article will overview the use of metabolomics in the raw material production process. Please check back on Thursday, April 28 for the final part of this three part series.

*Acknowledgement: Both GKL and RDH kindly acknowledge financial support for this paper from the EU Framework VI project “Metabolomics for Plants, Health and OutReach,” or META-PHOR (No. FOOD-CT-2006-036296).

Gerard Klein Essink, MSc, is managing director of Bridge2Food in The Netherlands, and Dr. Robert D. Hall is managing director of Centre for BioSystems Genomics CBSG2012, Plant Research International, also in The Netherlands.

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