Products tested

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices Herbs and spices Herbs and spices


Herbs and spices are gastronomically indispensable and present in almost every processed product. They are a product group that has been identified as being at high risk of adulteration with a lot of fraudulent activities remaining undetected. Authentication is therefore of high interest in this sector. The results of the coordinated control plan on the authenticity of herbs and spices from 2019-2021 on 6 different herbs & spices on EU markets showed substantial fraud risks for pepper, cumin, curcuma and saffron. Oregano was identified to be very vulnerable to contamination (48%).

Production of herbs and spices can be considered as the showcase model for globalization and international trade. Traditionally there are long and complex supply routes all over the world. End consumers value high quality associated with certain regions and tend nowadays also to give more importance to topics like sustainability and fair working conditions. This makes some origins and sources more attractive than others.

Customers like to buy regional products or tend to prefer certain origins for reasons such as locality-related quality or environmental factors such as sustainability.

Isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) can help answer questions about the geographic origin and authenticity of your herbs and spices at all points of the supply chain.

By determining and interpreting the stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, hydrogen and oxygen of any herb or spice, the so-called isotope fingerprint (consisting of all five ratios) is established which is characteristic for the sample and can be compared to reference data from reference samples from different regions or to a data base.

To achieve high geographical resolution and credible results, we use our global database, as well as our expertise and know-how to provide advanced customized origin testing by including more parameters. Any information on the samples such as suspected (not declared) origin, farming style, etc. is helpful.

When the risk of adulteration does not come from a targeted ingredients substitution or addition, unknown factors of differentiation may be involved for example different qualities of lots and sublots, different blend or simply – in the case of multiple ingredients – different recipe. In such cases, we can use untargeted fingerprinting of the products with one or more analytical methods of our portfolio, to identify differences and provide useful information for further investigation of such inconsistences.

Isotope analysis plays a decisive role when it comes to traceability of batches in the areas of production, import and export. With retained samples, the identity of products can be verified independently of documents – a control sample is directly compared with an original reference sample, providing strong evidence of authenticity.

Analysis of stable isotopes can serve as an attractive method for the analytical assurance of organic products. Organic products are not allowed to be treated with pesticides and certain fertilizers. The isotopic ratios of the bio-elements are influenced by the production of the plants and can therefore serve as an indicator of biological or conventional cultivation in plants. (e.g. detect the use of synthetically produced N fertilizers). In most cases, the examination of one isotope is not sufficient. The evaluation must be adapted to the respective product and the growing region.

Fraudsters can mix spice powders with other (cheaper) plants to maximize profit. Popular cases are adulteration of oregano with olive tree leaves or saffron with paprika. In order to detect such a (partial) substitution of the named herb/spice by another botanical material, identification of these species is an important supporting analytical method of choice.

Ceylon Cinnamon from Sri Lanka is registered as PGI at EU level. Imprint Analytics offers authenticity testing of ceylon cinnamon (source and origin verification) using analytical methods to enable a differentiation from cassia cinnamon and get information on the origin and purity.

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