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Scientific Innovation >> Examples of our Scientific Innovations >> SNIF-NMR - How it All Began

SNIF-NMR - How it All Began

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Authenticity and origin testing to protect our food and drink

Food fraud and the adulteration of what we eat and drink is a global problem and one which is only worsening. Fraudsters are substituting genuine, everyday ingredients with cheaper alternatives that mislead buyers and consumers, risk allergies, side-effects and even more severe harm to human health. The desire to help put an end to such dishonest practices led to the birth of the company that became Eurofins.

Back in 1981, Professors G. and M. Martin and their teams at the University of Nantes developed a pioneering process to detect the chaptalisation (or over-sugaring) of wine, and the enrichment of freshly pressed grapes. In 1987, this SNIF-NMR® method led to the creation of Eurofins. The Company has continued to develop the process, now using it to check the authenticity of wines, spirits, fruit juices, flavours, sugar syrups, and vinegar. Together with other tests the technique makes it possible to verify the geographical origin of products and decide, for example, whether vanillin was chemically-produced or whether it is natural   ̶   useful information as the two have a huge price difference.

This technique is still state-of-the-art over 30 years after its invention, and is a gold standard in its field. SNIF-NMR® is the official method of analysis for a variety of organisations, including the European Union (EU) and the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) for wine; the Association of Analytical Chemists (AOAC) for fruit juices, maple syrup, and vanillin; and European Committee for Standardization (CEN) for vinegar.

In addition, Eurofins has committed significant resource to developing a comprehensive reference database of over 30,000 pieces of data for wine, fruit juice, natural flavours and other products. The company continues to pioneer and develop cutting-edge tools to empower customers to fight back against food and beverage fraud.

The science behind

Atoms exist as different isotopes. Sugar in sugar beet, for example, comes from a different biochemical pathway than sugar in grapes, and therefore contains different proportions of hydrogen isotopes (1H and 2H). SNIF-NMR® can measure the different hydrogen isotope ratios at each position in a molecule, thereby identifying the addition of sugar from another source. The SNIF-NMR® process allows the quantification, with very fine precision, of isotopic ratios across a molecule. A number of factors affect these, including botanical origin, climate and geography and so the resulting isotopic fingerprint provides in-depth information about the origin of the molecule.