Truffles are edible fungi that grow in the soil in symbiosis with the roots of several tree and bush species. Due to their aroma, their price can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars per kilogram. The most valued varieties are the ones produced in Europe (mainly in Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Spain) which account for 85% of the global market.
Scientists from the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia, with technical advice and analytical support from the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), are studying their composition in order to determine their origins and help detect fraud. Thanks to the database and the techniques developed, other laboratories worldwide can also test truffles, establish their geographical origin and verify if they are genuine.
The most important results of their study were recently published in the journal Molecules. The study focuses on fraud related to misrepresentation of the geographical origin or species identification of the mushroom, known as mislabelling.
The cheats can be found out with the help of chemical analysis: because the isotopic make-up of the various truffles grown in different parts of the world are different, this analysis helps reveal their origins. The Slovenian scientists created a reference database for truffles. This database includes natural occurring stable isotope ratio of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur and strontium as well as the elemental and isotopic composition of authentic Slovenian truffle samples of the Tuber species (which includes calcium, cadmium, copper, iron, mercury, potassium, phosphorus, lead, aluminium, arsenic, barium, cobalt, chromium, caesium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, nickel, rubidium, sulphur, strontium, vanadium and zinc) from a range of geographical, geological and climatic origins.
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