Standard Article

Adulteration Determination


  1. Eric C. Wilhelmsen

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a1002

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Wilhelmsen, E. C. 2006. Adulteration Determination. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. Wilhelmsen Consulting, Milpitas, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Determining adulteration in food is accomplished by comparing analytical data with historical or control data. Without a proper reference set, the determination of adulteration is impossible. Adulteration is best shown by detecting a foreign component that is characteristic of a specific adulterant. Sometimes it is necessary to use deviations in a parameter, but typically these approaches are less sensitive owing to the natural variation in food. Often practitioners are interested in the more difficult converse, that is, authentication of a product or ingredient. In practice, authenticating a product or ingredient is equivalent to not finding any adulteration. Clearly, authentication is a negative, the absence of adulteration. It can never be entirely proven. The quality of a determination of authenticity is clearly linked to number and types of tests performed. The decision not to perform a test that yields additional information increases the potential of erroneously accepting a sample.

This proof of the negative challenge has led to competition between the practitioners of authentication and those who would adulterate their products or ingredients. This competition is readily apparent. Each time a useful new method has been introduced, previously undetected adulterations have surfaced. Unfortunately, the new methods generally do not supersede older methods and represent additional authentication costs. Fortunately, the vast majority of the food industry is not involved and generally cooperates in policing the marketplace.