„Harnessing science to counter fraud in food and beverages“ article appeared in Gasworld magazine. Counterfeiting products in the food and beverage industry have not only economic impact; more seriously, they pose also unsuspected risk to consumer health. In 2008, six babies died and many fell ill after drinking melamine-tainted mild products in China. Another food scandal broke in Europe in 2013, when horse meat was being labelled as beef from cattle.
Despite the best efforts of national food safety authorities, certain food and beverage product types such as - olive oil, goat´s milk, wines, basmati rice, honey caviar, vanilla and saffron - continue to fall prey to counterfeiting. For example goat´s milk can be diluted with cow´s milk or honey can be adulterated with sugar, corn syrup or other sweeteners. Counterfeit goods are invariably undetectable by sight and smell alone, and must be analyzed using sophisticated chemical analysis techniques. Among standard methods being used in food laboratories belong Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS), as well as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC). The most advanced method for food counterfeiting investigations is Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR).
A range of specialty gases (e.g. nitrogen and helium) are needed in order to carry out many food analyses.