Swiss cheese contains more than 200 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry has been utilized for the analysis of volatile compounds in food products; however, it is not sensitive enough to measure VOCs directly in the headspace of a food at low concentrations. Selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS) provides a basis for determining the concentrations of VOCs in the head space of the sample in real time at low concentration levels of parts per billion/trillion by volume. Of the Swiss cheese VOCs, relatively few have a major impact on flavor quality. VOCs with odor activity values (OAVs) (concentration/odor threshold) greater than one are considered high-impact flavor compounds. The objective of this study was to utilize SIFT-MS concentrations in conjunction with odor threshold values to determine OAVs thereby identifying high-impact VOCs to use for differentiating Swiss cheese from five factories and identify the factory variability. Seventeen high-impact VOCs were identified for Swiss cheese based on an OAV greater than one in at least 1 of the 5 Swiss cheese factories. Of these, 2,3-butanedione was the only compound with significantly different OAVs in all factories; however, cheese from any pair of factories had multiple statistically different compounds based on OAV. Principal component analysis using soft independent modeling of class analogy statistical differentiation plots, with all of the OAVs, showed differentiation between the 5 factories. Overall, Swiss cheese from different factories was determined to have different OAV profiles utilizing SIFT-MS to determine OAVs of high impact compounds.
Identification of high-impact volatile organic compounds using threshold levels along with selected ion flow mass spectroscopy concentrations provides a basis for a better understanding of the role of volatile compounds in the flavor of Swiss cheese.