Analytical Services For The Food Industry

Go To Services

Flavor, Fragrance and Spice Analysis

Detection of Synthetic Substances by
Radiocarbon (14C) Analysis

Carbon 14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon which is naturally occurring in all agricultural products. It is produced by cosmic ray interaction with nitrogen in the atmosphere and is subsequently incorporated in predictable quantities into plants by photosynthesis.

Radiocarbon has a half-life of about 5700 years. Fossil fuels, such as petroleum, coal and natural gas were produced from ancient plant material millions of years ago, and as such, no longer contain any Carbon 14, it having long since decayed away. Consequently, synthetic materials manufactured from these feedstocks also contain no detectable Carbon 14.

Precise measurement of the Radiocarbon content of food materials will thus allow natural agricultural materials to be differentiated from petrochemical based synthetics.


Table 1 lists a variety of materials for which Carbon 14 analysis has proved useful.

Conventional 14C analysis involves counting the sample in a sensitive radiation counter, such as a liquid scintillation or gas proportional counter. This approach is the most economical, but is limited by its requirement for sample sizes of 5 to 10 grams or more of sample material. The analysis can also be performed by accelerator mass spectrometry, a more expensive procedure, but one which can use as little as a few milligrams of sample.

The Radiocarbon method is applicable to the evaluation of a wide variety of other natural flavor and food additive compounds. Inquire about specific cases.

Table 1

Natural Materials with Full Modern 14C

Synthetic Materials with No 14C

Vinegar from Fermentation of Sugars


Acetic Acid, Vinegar from Synthetic Alcohol

Alcohol from Fermentation of Sugars


Synthetic Alcohol

Carbon Dioxide from Fermentation


Added Carbonation

Caffeine (from Coffee, Guarana)


Synthetic Caffeine

Vanillin (from Vanilla)


Synthetic Vanillin

Bitter Almond Oil (Natural Benzaldehyde from Cassia Oil)


Synthetic Benzaldehyde

Cinnamon Oil, Cassia Oil


Synthetic Cinnamaldehyde

Natural Ethyl Butyrate (and other natural esters)


Synthetic Esters

g-Decalactone (and other natural lactones)


Synthetic Lactones

Anise Oil


Synthetic Anethole

Wintergreen Oil


Synthetic Methyl Salicylate

Onion, Garlic Oils


Synthetic Allyl or Propyl Disulfide

Mustard Oil


Synthetic Allyl Isothiocyanate

Copyright © Krueger Food Laboratories, Inc. all rights reserved.