Is Your Cheese the Real Deal? - Chromatography Investigates
Nov 03 2019
Cheese is a fermented food made from milk. There are almost two thousand different cheese products based on regional variations and different animal origins for the milk. Some cheeses are regarded as inexpensive, almost everyday food staples, whilst others are marketed as premium products. And like many premium products, the profit to be made means that some people will be looking to make a quick profit by selling fake cheeses as a premium product. Chromatography is on the case.
Cheese - a food stable from the Stone Age
Who made the first cheese is lost in the pages of history. One myth describes how an Arab traveller was taking a trip across a desert over 4000 years ago with a pouch full of milk. The pouch was made of a sheep’s stomach and contained some rennet - an enzyme found in some animal’s stomachs that can separate milk into curds and whey. As he travelled across the desert, the heat of the sun separated the milk into curd and whey - in the evening, the traveller found that the whey and curd made a nice meal. Hence, cheese was discovered.
However, some research suggests that cheese has an older origin, with some traces of dairy fat being found in vessels dated to the Neolithic period over 7000 years ago. Many of the cheeses we eat today have their beginnings in the Middle Ages though. But mass production didn’t really start until the 20th Century. One of the most distinct, and also a premium type of cheese, is buffalo mozzarella which has its origins in Naples, Italy. It was first produced in Roman times - and is now one of the cheeses fraudsters targets. So, is your mozzarella from buffalo or cow? Chromatography knows.
Chromatography could even separate curds and whey
Mozzarella has its own back story - when curds accidently fell into a bucket of hot water in a cheese factory in Naples. But mozzarella is also a cheese that suffers from sneaky fraudsters. Because premium quality mozzarella is not made from a cow’s milk but from the milk from a water buffalo. And research suggests that some unscrupulous retailers and restauranteurs will sell you fake mozzarella at an inflated price. So how can you tell your water buffalo’s mozzarella from your fake mozzarella?
One method to detect differences between cheeses is to use chromatography in conjunction with mass spectrometry. The separation power of chromatography aligned with the analysis properties of mass spectrometry are able to tell the differences between buffalo and cow cheese based on amino acids. A discussion on the power of chromatography can be found in the article, Increasing HPLC / UHPLC Sample Throughput: Doing More in Less Time.
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