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Optimization of an Untargeted DART-HRMS Method Envisaging Identification of Potential Markers for Saffron Authenticity Assessment

Affiliation
Institute of Science of Food Production, National Research Council of Italy, Via G. Amendola 126/O, Bari, Italy
De Angelis, Elisabetta;
Affiliation
Institute of Science of Food Production, National Research Council of Italy, Via G. Amendola 126/O, Bari, Italy
Pilolli, Rosa;
Affiliation
Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission, National Council for Scientific Research, Riad El Solh 107, Beirut, Lebanon
Bejjani, Alice;
Affiliation
Institute of Science of Food Production, National Research Council of Italy, Via G. Amendola 126/O, Bari, Italy
Guagnano, Rocco;
Affiliation
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Department 5 Food Safety, Unit 51 Effect-based Analytics and Toxicogenomics, Germany
Garino, Cristiano;
Affiliation
Dipartimento di Scienze del Farmaco, Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale “Amedeo Avogadro”(UPO), Largo Donegani, 2, Novara, Italy
Arlorio, Marco;
Affiliation
Institute of Science of Food Production, National Research Council of Italy, Via G. Amendola 126/O, Bari, Italy
Monaci, Linda; Angelis, Elisabetta De

Saffron is one of the most expensive agricultural products in the world and as such, the most commonly adulterated spice, with undeclared plant-based surrogates or synthetic components simulating color and morphology. Currently, saffron quality is certificated in the international trade market according to specific ISO guidelines, which test aroma, flavor, and color strength. However, it has been demonstrated that specific adulterants such as safflower, marigold, or turmeric up to 20% (w/w) cannot be detected under the prescribed approach; therefore, there is still a need for advanced and sensitive screening methods to cope with this open issue. The current investigation aims to develop a rapid and sensitive untargeted method based on an ambient mass spectrometry ionization source (DART) and an Orbitrap™high-resolution mass analyzer to discriminate pure and adulterated saffron samples with either safflower or turmeric. The metabolic profiles of pure and adulterated model samples prepared at different inclusion levels were acquired. Unsupervised multivariate analysis was carried out based on hierarchical cluster analysis and principal component analysis as first confirmation of the discriminating potential of the metabolic profile acquired under optimized DART-HRMS conditions. In addition, a preliminary selection of potential markers for saffron authenticity was accomplished, identifying compounds able to discriminate the type of adulteration down to a concentration level of 5%.

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