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

Last updated on 21-9-2023 by Eric Deconinck
Project duration:
April 2, 2021
April 1, 2025

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 this, inventive approaches are required.
In this study we combine data from different detection modes in order to screen for and detect the presence of the claimed plants and the presence of undeclared controlled or toxic/illegal plants. 

Project description

The misperception of natural products being safe has been proven 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 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 investigations and the mixing of different plant species causes complicated analytical challenges. That is why we use the most promising approach in this context, namely the combination of chromatographic fingerprinting and chemometrics. The general objective of this project is to detect the regulated or toxic plants in plant food supplements based on the 3-dimensional fingerprinting approach, meaning that we combine data from different detection modes (like diode array and mass spectrometry). This yields huge data sets which is essential to discriminate between “good” and “bad” samples and also calls for appropriate tools to handle this data. Herein, we apply chemometric techniques for data analysis.

This project helps developing a screening approach and conducting market studies which will be conveyed to the authorities. This provides a current standpoint of the plant food supplements and helps sensitising authorities towards the increasing threat and raise public awareness.

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