NMR Spectroscopy in Food Safety Maintenance

Food safety regulations are followed to the letter by food manufacturers, yet there are still instances in which suspicious food products—whether they’re contaminated or shipped to a continent illegally—slip through the system and end up in the public food supply.

Not only is there an inherent risk to the food manufacturer’s image following release of a tainted product, but such release to the public creates a serious, and sometimes deadly, public health threat.

Food regulations allow for minimal (if any) contaminants in food prior the release of products to the public. Verification of food authenticity is also an essential step for food industry regulators to protect the public from food fraud.

Consistent efforts from those within the scientific community have been increasingly focused on the introduction of innovative technologies that provide accurate depiction of food components in an effort to minimize these risks.

Honey, Honeycomb, Honey Bee

How NMR Assists the Food Industry in Maintaining Quality

With the consistent rise in food contaminants, including those that cause serious illness among the population (Escherichia coli, for example), the use of technology for monitoring food safety has become crucial.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is commonly used to study the structure of molecules as well as the composition of biological solutions.

Honey, for example, can be marketed deceptively, especially in a time when bee colonies are steadily dwindling. Small manufacturers labeling honey as 100% pure may actually have traces of corn syrup or sugar cane as a means of extending their product and reducing manufacturing and production costs.

NMR has been helpful in these types of situations for detecting these ingredients.1,2 While this doesn’t always prove to be a serious health threat, those allergic to unlabeled fillers could experience adverse events following consumption.

Amino acids, lipids, and sugars can be analyzed with NMR to determine product authenticity, and harmful food adulterants and contaminants can also be identified using this screening tool. Many researchers involved in food and agriculture believe NMR should be a standard and complementary approach for monitoring food safety.

NMR offers the ability to provide researchers as well as food regulators both qualitative and quantitative data of food components to establish ingredient authenticity. Data obtained from NMR can also be combined with gas chromatography, according to one study,3 which may help quantify the fatty acid profile of certain foods.

The NMR technique could enable rapid analysis of food composition by comparing analyzed foods to known samples and seeing if the food product is a genuine representation of what is on the product’s label. Ascertaining the possibility of meat adulteration is one example where this technique could be useful.


Using NMR to test dietary supplements

The dietary supplement industry could also benefit from the use of NMR technology.4,5 Food supplements have become increasingly compromised due to the less stringent regulations surrounding their manufacture.

Supplements containing plant materials that don’t appear on the label can pose a serious health threat, especially to those individuals who have allergies to the unsuspecting ingredients. NMR spectroscopy can be an additional tool for these products before they hit market by helping to weed out those supplements that contain dubious and unadvertised materials.

Advances in NMR

The NMR FoodScreenerTM from Bruker delivers rapid detection of adulteration of food products—particularly juice, wine, and honey—to help reduce the likelihood of contaminated and/or fraudulent foods from entering the food supply.

The FoodScreener provides a profile of a sample and compares it to a larger database of authentic samples to obtain structural differences. This profiling tool improves quality control (QC) and screening of potential safety issues in a cost-effective manner.

Time-Domain (TD) NMR is also an invaluable tool helpful for improving QC of food production. This tool, also offered by Bruker, utilizes radio-frequency energy that enables analyzation of a sample without destruction.


  • Spiteri M, Jamin E, Thomas F, et al. Fast and global authenticity screening of honey using ¹H-NMR profiling. Food Chem. 2015;189:60-66.
  • Bertelli D, Lolli M, Papotti G, et al. Detection of honey adulteration by sugar syrups using one-dimensional and two-dimensional high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance. J Agric Food Chem. 2010;58(15):8495-8501.
  • Monakhova YB, Godelmann R, Andlauer C, Kuballa T, Lachenmeier DW. Identification of Imitation Cheese and Imitation Ice Cream Based on Vegetable Fat Using NMR Spectroscopy and Chemometrics. Int J Food Sci. 2013;2013:367841.
  • Hachem R, Assemat G, Martins N, et al. Proton NMR for detection, identification and quantification of adulterants in 160 herbal food supplements marketed for weight loss. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2016;124:34-47.
  • Vaysse J, Balayssac S, Gilard V, et al. Analysis of adulterated herbal medicines and dietary supplements marketed for weight loss by DOSY 1H-NMR. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2010;27(7):903-916.
  • Daniel Kortschak, Den Fälschern auf der Spur, Lebensmittel Zeitung, LZ 30 29. Juli 2016

About Bruker BioSpin - NMR, EPR and Imaging

Bruker BioSpin offers the world's most comprehensive range of NMR and EPR spectroscopy and preclinical research tools. Bruker BioSpin develops, manufactures and supplies technology to research establishments, commercial enterprises and multi-national corporations across countless industries and fields of expertise.

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Last updated: Mar 11, 2023 at 2:01 AM


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