PROVENANCE OF FOOD BY ELEMENTAL AND ISOTOPIC FINGERPRINTING - FIGHTING FRAUD WITH ANALYTICAL SCIENCE


Thomas Prohaska1, Johanna Irrgeher2, Christine Opper1, Andreas Zitek1

Organization(s): 1: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria; 2: Helmholtz-Centre Geesthacht, Germany

The proof of provenance along with food traceability (‘from farm to fork‘) has become a major concern in anti fraud and consumer protection. Mandatory regulations and the public awareness demand expert opinions and unbiased proof of quality. As a consequence, ‘fighting fraud with science’ has triggered the development of a number of scientific solutions to this problem summarized under the term ‘food forensic science’.

As common traceability systems have proven not to be fraud resistant, analytical chemists have started to investigate intrinsic chemical and physical properties of food commodities, which have the potential to proof provenance, originality or authenticity of food products. Among these, elemental and isotopic fingerprints have become very popular as they make use of the regional natural variation of naturally occurring elements. This variation leads to a specific fingermark, which can be related to provenance, originality or authenticity. Above all, the analysis of isotope ratios of the ‘bio elements’ like (C, N, O, H, S) has been applied to provide evidence of authentic food. Additionally, novel signatures (such as Sr and Pb) have been identified as promising systems to be used for traceability and authenticity studies.

In this paper, case studies on the use of elemental and isotopic patterns (with a focus in the Sr isotopic system) to trace the origin of strawberry raw products as well as processed fruits, green coffee beans and asparagus are presented and discussed along with the establishment of isotopic landscapes (‘isoscapes’) as tracer tool.

Thomas Prohaska

Thomas Prohaska is professor for analytical chemistry at the BOKU (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Tulln, Austria). He studied chemistry at the Vienna University of Technology and received his PhD with summa cum laude in 1995. He became scientific researcher at the BOKU in the same year to build up a laboratory for elemental trace analysis. From 1998 to 2000 he was researcher at the EC joint research center IRMM in Geel, Belgium. He returned to the BOKU with a new focus on isotope research and became associate professor in 2002. In 2004, he received the START award to setup a new research laboratory (VIRIS) for analytical ecogeochemistry. In 2011, he moved to the new laboratory infrastructure based at the UFT Tulln. With 120+ relevant publications he is a leading researcher in the field of elemental and isotopic analysis.
He has been member of a number of scientific societies and committees (e.g. board of directors of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (young academy), chairman of the Austrian Society of Chemistry and Physics or secretary of the Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Atomic Weights).