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Origin Analysis with Isotope Fingerprints

Team TFS
Team TFS
shutterstock_409802056The roots and origin of people and families are of great importance for each person, especially when they are unknown.

Why is origin so important? It defines who we are and gives us confidence on our past and future. It is the same with food and beverage products.

Knowing where the food that we buy has come from can influence our purchasing decisions.

Some countries or regions have gained their fame by their products, where their labeling and denomination of origin is legally protected (for example Italian Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese or Spanish saffron).

For this reason, in the last few years, labeling requirements for food and beverage products have been enforced to protect consumer confidence and a company’s reputation. Every attempt at product mislabeling threatens public trust.

At the latest RAFA conference (8th International Symposium on Recent Advances in Food Analysis, 7-10 November 2017, Prague, Czech Republic), food integrity, fraud and mislabeling challenges were discussed alongside the analytical techniques that can be employed to detect them. Click here for more information on Thermo Fisher Scientific’s presence at RAFA.

Presenting examples for isotope fingerprinting, Simon Kelly, food safety specialist (traceability) at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, Austria, explained how isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) allows for secure determination of the origin of food and beverage products. Take beef meat for example, object of the 2013 UK scandal: by mapping the isotope fingerprints of authentic samples of beef meat coming from UK, Scotland, Wales, England, Brazil and USA to the sample in study, IRMS highlighted the difference in the carbon isotope fingerprint of the beef. Watch the seminar here.

The reason behind this difference lies in the animal’s diet: US and Brazilian beef stock are fed on maize, which is photosynthetically a C4 plant -- meaning that the first step in converting inorganic carbon (carbon dioxide) to organic compounds is the production of an organic compound containing 4-carbon atoms -- with a unique carbon isotope fingerprint. This carbon isotope fingerprint gets transferred to animal tissue and therefore is seen analytically via IRMS.

Basing the origin demonstrations on C3/C4 diet was shown to be reliable by a study carried out in 2006: even if the cattle are switched to a C3-plant based diet, it takes 167 days for the switch to be assimilated by the tissues. Thanks to this basis, Simon’s analysis demonstrated that one of the samples analyzed was meat coming from Brazil even though it was labeled as British beef.

Stable isotope analysis provides us with a set of parameters outside chemical and biochemical composition that is difficult for food adulterators to subvert.

If you want to learn more about isotope analysis for food and beverage analysis visit this site:

If you missed the seminar at RAFA 2017 watch the video now here: RAFA vendor seminars.

If you want to know more example of food analysis performed with isotope watch these videos: RAFA videos of posters IRMS.

If you are interested in the Thermo Scientific IRMS Portfolio visit:

For further information on Food Integrity click here.