New methodology identifies odorants and tastants simultaneously

Breakthrough by scientists in Germany could simplify and accelerate the quality control of raw ingredients

An upstream enrichment step also makes it possible to analyse volatile odours with the ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry technique normally used for flavour analysis.
Copyright: Andreas Dunkel / Leibniz Institute LSB / TUM

Food manufacturers wanting to guarantee consistent sensory quality, seeks to know and control the characteristic odour and taste profiles of their products—from the raw material to the package. This requires a fast but precise food analysis.

Whether a food tastes good or not is primarily determined by the interaction of odours and tastants. A few trillionths of a gram per kilogram of food are enough to perceive some odorants. Tastants, on the other hand, are only recognise at significantly higher concentrations.

Tastants and aroma substances, however, differ greatly in their chemical and physical properties. As a result, food chemists currently use very different methods to determine the exact nature and quantity of odorants and tastants in raw material or food.

Aroma analyses are very time-consuming and therefore expensive, which limits the high-throughput analysis of numerous samples.

The new methodical approach developed in Germany enables researchers to examine food simultaneously for both odorants and tastants in a time-saving high-throughput process.

It is based on an ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS) method typically used for taste analysis

"It is based on an ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS) method typically used for taste analysis," Thomas Hofmann, Director of the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology and Professor of Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science at the TUM, explains.

The new and time-saving feature of the developed approach is that volatile odorous substances can now also be analysed by means of an upstream enrichment or substance conversion step using this method, which is otherwise not used for aromatic substances.

"We have tested our new methodological approach using apple juice as an example. The results are very promising," says Andreas Dunkel, Senior Scientist at the Leibniz-Institute of Food Systems Biology. Together with doctoral student Christoph Hofstetter from the TUM, he was substantially involved in the development of the new approach.

Andreas Dunkel and Christoph Hofstetter in their laboratory.

For the scientists, the new method makes it possible for the first time to analyse a large number of samples in a very short time with regard to their taste and odour giving ingredients.

The researchers hope to be able to further develop the method so that it can be used by food manufacturers in the future to quickly and easily monitor the flavour of food along the entire value chain and, if necessary, optimise it.

Last but not least, the new method could also be used to stop food fraud. "Using the identified flavour profiles, it would be possible to check the origin and quality label of the manufacturers and detect food fraud," Dunkel concludes.