Is Your Vanilla Authentic? — Chromatography Extracts the Truth
Feb 07 2018 Read 2384 Times
It is one of the most widely used flavourings in the food industry — used by everyone from master chefs to home bakers. But is the vanilla you are using authentic? Because of its popularity and the cost of real stuff, vanilla is one of those products that unscrupulous people like to fake There is nothing wrong in using manufactured vanilla flavouring — as long as you know what you are paying for. So how do we check that we are getting the real deal — use chromatography of course.
Fruit of an orchid
Vanilla come from orchids, well to be specific, it comes from the vanilla orchid. The word vanilla literally means ‘little pod’, and it is from the seed pods of the orchid that we get the flavouring. But the reason why people fake vanilla is down to its production costs. It is pricey because of the way it must be commercially cultivated. Each flower must be pollinated by hand.
Vanilla orchids originally came from what is now Mexico. The Aztec’s used the pods as a flavouring long before European chefs got hold of it. Legend has it that the Spanish took vanilla back to Europe in the 15th Century. But they forgot to take the bees that pollinate vanilla flowers, and the plants didn’t produce any seeds.
Hand pollination — an expensive business
You see, vanilla is pollinated by only a few species, including a type of bee and some hummingbirds. And without these, there are no seed pods. It has since been cultivated in a few other areas of the world, including Indonesia and Madagascar. But these all rely on hand pollination — a trick found by a slave on the island of Reunion in the 1840s. Once this trick was known, commercial production could begin.
Worldwide production of vanilla is significantly short of the demand. It takes a long time to produce the seed pods needed to deliver the delicious flavours and is very labour intensive. Hence, the need for artificial vanilla. It is relatively easy to synthesize the main flavouring compound found in vanilla from lignin, a by-product of the wood-pulp and paper industry.
Spotting cheap vanilla
Chromatography has been at the forefront of analysing vanilla extracts to ensure their provenance as genuine. A combination of gas or liquid chromatography can be used alongside mass spectrometry. But, the methods have been time consuming and mass spec is not available in all laboratories.
Recent advances in analysing vanilla extracts has seen the use of new detectors like vacuum ultraviolet used. The use of these detectors is discussed in the article, A New Method for Fast Residual Solvents Analysis and Untargeted Unknown Identification Faster Sample Throughput and Shorter GC Runtimes Using GC-VUV and Static Headspace.
So, as you’re sitting on the beach this summer eating a cornet — remember the part played by chromatography in making sure your ice cream tastes great.
Do you like or dislike what you have read? Why not post a comment to tell others / the manufacturer and our Editor what you think. To leave comments please complete the form below. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours. Leaving comments on product information and articles can assist with future editorial and article content. Post questions, thoughts or simply whether you like the content.
In This Edition Fundamental ASpects The Quest for True Ultra High Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography Walk-up SFC-MS for Fast Purification of reaction Mixtures within Discover...
View all digital editions
Sep 23 2019 Cambridge, UK
Sep 24 2019 Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sep 29 2019 Bethesda, MD, USA
Sep 30 2019 Philadephia, PA, USA
Oct 27 2019 Basel, Switzerland