114478-memory-card-game-1-st3-1_page_2The 9th International Symposium on Recent Advances in Food Analysis (RAFA) is taking place this year on 5-8 November, in Prague (Czech Republic).

Among the many topics relative to food safety and food analysis, on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, are two sessions on food authenticity and fraud.

The definition of the EU Commission is “Fraud in the context of food means that the description of the origin of food, its composition and how it has been obtained and/or prepared, shall be truthful, i.e. nothing of lesser economic value must be added, or removed if it is of higher economic value. If food is misdescribed, i.e. the information about origin, composition, etc. provided to customers is not true and if this misdescription is done with the intention to deceive the customer for financial gain, food fraud – also known as economically motivated adulteration – is committed”.

The EU commission estimates that the damages created by economically motivated adulteration of food are around € 8 to 12 billion per year. With the aim of protecting citizens, consumers and the market, regulations have been put in place, defining frameworks for labeling and declaration of origin. To sustain these frameworks, official methods are also existent to support the analysis of food and beverage, especially the most adulterated ones, like wine, honey, spirits, etc. (read here about the official methods for IRMS).

When it comes to food authenticity and fraud, the Isotope Hunter, a man on a mission to investigate the origin and authenticity of samples with isotope fingerprints, comes into play. By investigating the isotope fingerprints, a unique chemical signature of food and beverage products, the Isotope Hunter can identify their real origin and authenticity. To visualize this fingerprint, Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) is used. At RAFA the Isotope Hunter is going to participate with different activities. Here is a preview.

Isotope Fingerprints Room

Do you know where the isotope fingerprints of samples come from? What can the Isotope Fingerprints identify? And how can you detect them? The isotope-2Isotope Fingerprints Room (located in the Conference poster room Meridian) will provide answers to all these questions and will give you real-life examples of how the Isotope Hunters in the field are using them to ensure authentic foods and consumer trust.

By following the footsteps of the Isotope Hunter, you will enter the world of Isotope Fingerprints. Help the Isotope Hunter match the investigation cards with the samples and get a card game for yourself. Also, don’t miss the chance to take a photo at the Isotope Hunter photobooth! Don’t forget to share the snaps on social media with the hashtag #IsotopeHunter!

Poster Presentation on the Origin of Tequila

The global consumption and success of tequila has made it one of the most popular alcoholic beverages. Consequently, fraudulent activities either by adulteration and mislabeling of original tequila or production of fake tequila have increased, with a subsequent decrease in export value to the Mexican economy.

By law, only the blue agave (Agave tequilana Weber var. Azul), a native plant of the Jalisco region in Mexico, is allowed to be used in the production of tequila.

Since the blue agave plant is region-specific and photosynthetically it is part of the CAM plant group, it has a well-defined carbon isotope fingerprint of -12‰ to -14‰. Tequila is produced exclusively in five areas of Mexico: Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacan, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas, meaning that the oxygen isotope fingerprint of the A. tequilana plant,and of the local sugars used in mixed tequilas is primarily given by the rainfall water in those regions and therefore can provide a geographical tool for origin. Check the poster presentation and learn more here.

Poster Presentation on Tracing the Sugar Addition in Food and Beverages

The food and beverage industry suffers from fraudulent activities that include incorrect labeling of products and adulteration, which has a significant impact on food and beverage safety, brand names and reputation, and the market economy. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the most common forms of juice adulteration are the addition of some form of sugar and water, addition of pulp wash, substitution of a less expensive juice, addition of unapproved preservatives, and labeling of reconstituted juice as fresh squeezed1.

Detecting the added sugar can be achieved using stable isotope measurements because stable isotopes can differentiate between the sugar already present in the sample from the sugar which is added artificially. Carbohydrates carry an isotope fingerprint. To visualize this fingerprint, IRMS can be used, identifying the isotope fingerprint of the product. In this poster presentation, examples of the use of isotope fingerprints in honey, wine and coconut water for the determination of addition of sugar are presented, alongside an overview of their interpretation. Don’t miss the poster.

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Poster Presentation on Tracing the Geographical Origin of Coffee

Coffee beans are produced in the territories known as the “Bean Belt” – the band around the Earth between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer known for cultivating different varieties of coffee.
Depending on the bio-geological features of the country of origin – soil, altitude, rainfall and sunshine – coffee beans develop different characteristics that create their unique flavors. Country of origin is often used as a statement to market and position coffee blends and single bean products, and it is becoming increasingly important for consumers to qualify origin claims. Varying qualities of coffee beans and association with countries of origin might lead to mislabeling and fraudulent claims about the blends for economically-driven purposes.

Coffee beans also have a fingerprint: isotope fingerprints of hydrogen and oxygen have been reliably used for origin, authenticity and product label claim verification. Read the poster presentation and discover how hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope measurements on roasted coffee samples were analyzed to enable tracing the origin of coffee beans.

Also to learn more about labeling regulations for coffee read this post.

Besides the activities of the Isotope Hunter, Thermo Fisher will be holding seminars. Mark the dates in your calendar and register for seminars to learn more about the latest instrument developments and applications. Bring your questions to our experts at booth #8:

As you can see, if you’re attending the conference this year, a lot is waiting for you in Prague at RAFA. Don’t miss the chance to meet the isotope Hunter and visit the other activities planned. Are you ready to become an Isotope Hunter, too?

To discover more about isotope fingerprints, attend the free e-learning and investigate with the Isotope Hunter. In the different chapters you will discover why isotope fingerprints enable scientists to get conclusive answers on origin and authenticity of samples for a variety of applications. Attend the e-learning.

If you are interested in more resources about isotope fingerprints, visit thermofisher.com/IsotopeFingerprints

To learn more about food integrity, visit thermofisher.com/foodintegrity and download the brochure, click here.


  1. S. Food and Drug Administration. 2011. Guide to inspections of manufacturers of miscellaneous food products, vol. I, sect.10:19–45