Natural product testing is an essential method for verifying the authenticity of natural ingredients in various consumer products. This reliable testing technique, known as carbon-14 analysis, enables the differentiation between naturally sourced ingredients derived from biomass and synthetic compounds derived from petrochemicals. It has wide applications in food, beverages, supplements, and flavors.
For instance, caffeine serves as a specific example highlighting the necessity of natural product testing. Although natural and synthetic caffeine have identical molecular effects on the body, they can be distinguished through carbon-14 analysis. This method involves measuring the carbon-14 content in a product sample, enabling the determination of the percentage of naturally sourced ingredients it contains.
Economically motivated adulteration poses a significant challenge in the industry, as some companies replace natural-derived ingredients with synthetic alternatives without disclosing this information on product labels. This deceptive practice arises from the high demand for natural products and the lower cost of synthetic alternatives. Synthetic caffeine, due to its affordability, is increasingly being used in processed beverages such as soda and energy drinks.
Carbon-14 analysis is conducted using an accelerator mass spectrometer instrument, which measures the radiocarbon content in a sample. As synthetic ingredients lack radiocarbon content and are derived from fossil fuel sources, this analysis accurately identifies the origin of caffeine. The results are reported as the percentage of biobased material versus petroleum-derived material, with 100% indication that a sample is sourced entirely from natural ingredients.