Iberian ham fraud could be caught with analytical technique


Katrina Megget, Securing Industry



A low cost and portable analytical technique has been found to be effective in authenticating Iberian dry-cured ham and to detect fraud in the food’s labelling.


Researchers from the University of Córdoba, Spain, used gas chromatography (GC) coupled to ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) to detect the volatile compound profile of dry-cured Iberian ham from pigs fattened on acorn and pasture and those fattened on feed. The data was used to classify the meat and to detect possible labelling fraud.


The research has been published in the journal Food Chemistry.


According to the researchers, Iberian ham is highly susceptible to fraud because of the quality and price differences that occur depending on how Iberian pigs are fed.


Acorn-fed ham comes from Iberian pigs raised on freerange farms with a diet of acorns and grass, while feed-fed ham comes from pigs raised on confined farms and fed with concentrated feed.


“Labelling fraud is a serious problem that causes major economic loss in the sector, since in many cases Iberian hams from pigs fed with concentrated feed are labelled as Iberian acorn-fed hams,” the researchers said. “Despite this problem, there are no analytical methods included in current legislation to control and ensure the authenticity of final dry-cured products or detect possible fraud in their labelling.”


While there has been increased interest in analytical techniques to distinguish the feeding diets of Iberian pigs in recent years – including mass spectrometry, and biomarker and stable isotope analysis – the researchers focused on the emerging food fraud technique of ion mobility spectrometry, which is based on gas phase ion separation inside a drift tube under the influence of a constant electric field at atmospheric pressure.


Coupling this with gas chromatography, along with different chemometric strategies, the researchers explored the potential of the technique for the first time in differentiating the two types of dry-cured Iberian ham. The scientists tested 24 samples, 12 of each ham type.


The researchers found...