3D-herbs - 3-dimensional chromatographic approaches for screening of regulated plants in plant food supplements

Last updated on 18-8-2022 by Jill Alexandre
April 2, 2021
April 1, 2025

Service(s) working on this project

Sciensano's project investigator(s):

In short

“Natural” is “safe” is a trending consideration in the western world. It is therefore no surprise that the popularity of herbal food supplements, and thus their adulteration and fraud, is on the rise. To detect such ruse, inventive approaches are required.

Project summary

The misperception of natural being safe has been proved otherwise with reported cases of toxicity of some plants present in plant food supplements. An increasing consumption of the plant food supplements has resulted in their increased adulteration necessitating control over the market which, at this moment is limited. Over the last few decades the amount of undeclared food supplements seized by customs and available on the internet has risen both nationally and internationally. Usually, the seized supplements are screened for chemical adulterants while herbal adulteration is neglected due to lack of reliable methods. However, this has now become a matter of concern due to reported cases of toxicity resulting after ingestion of these regulated plants. To handle this problem properly, inventive approaches are required.

The incorporation of powdered plants into tablets or capsules makes it impossible to conduct macro- and microscopic research and the mixing of different plant species causes complicated analytical challenges.

The most promising approach in this context is the combination of chromatographic fingerprinting and chemometrics, which is not yet fully explored. The general objective of this project is to detect the regulated or toxic plants in plant food supplements based on 3-dimensional fingerprinting approach, meaning that data from different detection modes (like diode array and mass spectrometry) will be combined. This will yield huge data sets which is essential to discriminate between “good” and “bad” samples and also calls for appropriate tools to handle this data. Herein, chemometric techniques will be applied for data analysis.

This project will help developing a screening approach and conduct market studies which will be conveyed to the authorities. This will provide a current standpoint of the plant food supplements and will help sensitizing these authorities towards the increasing threat and raise public awareness.


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