Posted by Dr. Diandree Padayachee, Applications Specialist at Syft Technologies.
The volatile profiles of vanilla beans can vary significantly, depending on factors such as country of origin and curing processes. Rapid determination of vanilla origin would give food distributors the assurance that the product they are on-selling is legitimate and of good quality.
A paper published in 2012 by the late Prof. Jim Harper’s research group at Ohio State University, and our very own Dr. Vaughan Langford , showed that SIFT-MS can rapidly differentiate vanilla bean extracts from different origins. Prof. Harper’s group also investigated FTIR-ATR, and while they found that multivariate (SIMCA) analysis applied to both techniques could be used to differentiate vanilla extracts from different origins, SIFT-MS had the added advantage of differentiating through compound concentrations. The most important compounds for discrimination could therefore be readily identified and quantified with SIFT-MS. Click on this link for access to the paper.
Rapid identification of vanilla volatiles with SIFT-MS also has implications for combatting food fraud – a serious issue, to which vanilla is not immune. Fake vanilla extract could contain coumarin, a compound which could have severe consequences for people on blood-thinning medication (see FDA report on fake vanilla product here). The specificity and sensitivity of the SIFT-MS technique can be readily applied to distinguish vanillin from coumarin, simplifying the screening of vanilla products by food authorities.