Food scientists Yannick Weesepoel and Saskia van Ruth are taking advantage of advances in portable spectroscopic instrumentation and chemometrics modelling for new approaches to food analysis and authentication.
In this account, Weesepoel and van Ruth, colleagues at RIKILT Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Netherlands, describe their work using equipment such as the Ocean Optics IDRaman mini handheld Raman spectrometer. Some of their comments have been edited for length and clarity.
In addition, Dr. Weesepoel will give a presentation about this research titled “Food analysis beyond imagination” on 6 November 2015 at the 7th International Symposium on Recent Advances in Food Analysis (Prague, CZ). Ocean Optics will exhibit at the show at stand No. 28.
Is that beefsteak truly fresh and organic? Does this olive oil really originate from Tuscany? These types of questions become more and more important for the modern consumer. At RIKILT Wageningen UR, we realized quite soon that these types of food analysis problems are not straightforward at all and that there are no paved ways to follow. Therefore, in the area of food authentication and fraud deterrence, scientists should not be afraid to utilize all new tools in order to find the easiest and most economical path to reach their goal. For complex questions, food authentication often relies on advanced analysis techniques that are relatively time consuming, especially when dealing with fresh products. In cases of testing organic coffees and eggs, RIKILT has been able to use advanced analytical fingerprint techniques to solve authentication issues.
In order to suppress analysis costs and time usage, we decided to explore the use of portable spectroscopic equipment as a pre-selection tool for authentication of foods. Though this might sound straightforward, food is a highly versatile matrix with significant batch-to-batch, seasonal and processing variations. Developing an authentication application, therefore, means that you have to dive in head-first, cooperate with food manufacturers or retailers, and not be afraid to walk into a solid brick wall when things get difficult.
Just recently, we started testing mini-versions of NIR and Raman spectrometers for a number of oil- and meat-based authentication applications. We approached the problems as they are in real life; for example, by measuring non-destructively, which means measuring through packaging or directly on meat surfaces. As a result, the data from these non-destructive measurements are often non-linear and cannot be interpreted by straightforward chemometrics. At RIKILT we now apply artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms in order to make sense out of the relatively chaotic data resulting from such measurements.
About the Authors
Dr. Yannick Weesepoel started working as a scientist in food authenticity in June 2014, specializing in authentication of food with miniaturized equipment and chemometric modelling. He earned his Ph.D. in Food Chemistry on mass spectrometry and phytonutrients in September 2014.
Prof. Saskia van Ruth is business unit manager for Authenticity and Novel Foods at RIKILT and a Professor of Food Authenticity at Wageningen University and Research Centre.