Food adulteration commonly refers to intentionally added substances or adulterants that are not specified or declared to be in the food product. The main incentive behind food adulteration is economic: either reduction of cost or increase in perceived value. The adulterants may be harmful, or reduce the potency of the product, or they may be harmless. The main federal laws governing adulterated foods are the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. These laws contain separate language defining in very specific terms how the term “adulterated” will be applied to the foods each of these laws regulates.

Some Food adulteration cases that have recently captured public attention include the addition of urea, melamine or other non-protein nitrogen substances to milk powder, infant formula and pet foods to inflate the crude protein content; the addition of low cost high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar to honey; and the addition of diethylene glycol to sweet wines to increase sweetness.

Food adulteration is at the top of the list when it comes to food safety concerns, especially following recent incidents such as the 2008 Chinese powdered milk scandal. How to detect food adulteration, and in particular how to quickly detect food adulteration, is a challenge for the analytical industry. Near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy is a non-destructive, fast screening method that has been successfully used for a number of food adulteration applications, such as olive oil adulterated with other vegetable oils, melamine in milk, milk powder and soya bean meal, adulteration of spices with low cost ingredients, etc. Although NIR spectroscopy is not as sensitive as some other analytical methods, in cases of economic adulteration the concentrations of adulterant are often quite high, and it has the advantages of no sample preparation, high speed, and ease of use.

Galaxy Scientific offers portable high performance FT-NIR spectrometers that can be used in the field for on-site screening. To increase the sensitivity of the NIR method, Galaxy Scientific also offers it’s AdvancedID package, which uses a patent-pending algorithm, for targeted screening at concentrations as low as 0.01%.  In summary, Galaxy Scientific offers a versatile, fast, sensitive, on-site screening tool to battle food adulteration.