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NMR and food products


Key words NMR spectroscopy, quality control, phase composition, water content, porosity, permeability, non-invasive, non-destructive
Latest version 2011/10/07
Completed by UTCN

How does it work?

Primary objective Non-invasive analytical tool for:
  • Identification of the structure of organic compounds
  • Detailed structural information about chemical compounds
  • Detection of contaminants in food
Working principle Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) is based on the measurement of absorbed radiofrequency waves by a sample magnetized into a magnetic field. Modern NMR spectrometers using strong magnets (1 to 20 T) were developed since stronger magnetic fields improve the measurements resolution. Low magnetic field equipments were developed, too, leading to the low cost, robust and easy–to-use benchtop NMR spectrometers. These equipments provide useful information on the surface of solid, soft solid, jelly and liquid samples, on water movement in samples, etc.

The variation of the intensity of absorbed radiofrequency in a sample versus the magnetic field represents the NMR spectrum of the sample. The NMR technique offers information related to the chemical composition and molecular structure of the studied material. NMR spectroscopy permits the study of various physical, chemical, structural and dynamic properties of samples which contain 1H, 13C, 17O, 23N nuclei.

Specific applications are:

  • Characterization of the energetic status of microbial cells to monitor the fermentation of yoghurts (using phosphorus 31 LR NMR)
  • Examination of cell cultures in the mashing of beer (using proton NMR)
  • Cooking of various types of rice (proton NMR).
  • Determination of solid fat by NMR

NMR can also be used to examine in vitro dynamic processes or structure like textures without the use of any marker compounds or any physical incursion at all beyond a magnetic field.

Additional effects There are no additional effects.
Important process parameters temperature, aging, degradation, viscosity, permeability.
Important product parameters water content, food composition

What can it be used for?

Products The 1H NMR technique can be used for solid, liquid, semi-liquid and semi-solid food products such as fat, sugar, flour, juices, cheeses, emulsions (basically all products containing hydrogen in their composition).
Operations Quality control, process monitoring (during the manufacturing, packaging, shipping or storing of food products.
Solutions for short comings
  • Use as complementary control method or may replace traditional control methods that are time consuming or are related to some undesired additional effects.
  • Versatile, rapid and precise analysis.

What can it NOT be used for?

Products The use of NMR investigation is limited to products containing active NMR nuclei (H, N, Na, P, Si, etc).
Operations No.
Other limitations Price of high resolution NMR and all installation requirements including liquid He are considerable limitations; application of low resolution NMR is restricted because the resolution in low fields is very weak for many products.
Risks or hazards There are no risks for the food products associated to the use of NMR technique. The use of NMR technique for food quality control does not change the product properties.

When high magnetic field NMR equipments are used, the presence of persons with pacemakers or other metallic implants or carrying metallic objects in the vicinity of the magnets is forbidden.


Maturity The NMR spectroscopy is a well developed and efficient analytical method for high fields. However, new progresses are reported in the field of applications such as food technology.

The use of portable NMR spectrometers is in full progress. Such portable NMR spectrometers are available ready-to-install, with calibration standards and traceable multi-language softwares.

Modularity /Implementation Mobile NMR equipments were developed to be implemented on production lines. The use of such portable equipments is simple and do not require special conditions or modifications of the production line.
Consumer aspects NMR is a non-invasive control technique. Since the consumers are familiarized with the use of NMR equipments in medicine as a non-invasive diagnostic technique, they perceive positively its use in food technology [1,2].
Legal aspects There is no EC regulation related to the use of NMR technique in food technology.
Environmental aspects No environmental problems are related to the use of NMR technique.

Further Information

Institutes DIL, KU Leuven LFT, UTCN, IRTA
Companies ARTEC.System, Bruker
  1. Magnetic Resonance in food science, Latest Developments, edited by P.S. Belton, A.M. Gil, G.A. Webb and D. Rutledge, May 2003.
  2. M.D.Hürlimann, L.Burcaw, Yi-Qiao Song, 2006, Quantitative characterization of food products by two-dimensional D–T2 and T1–T2 distribution functions in a static gradient, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 297, 1, p.303-311.
  3. D.E.Freed, M.D. Hürlimann, 2010, One- and two-dimensional spin correlation of complex fluids and the relation to fluid composition, Comptes Rendus Physique,11, 2, p.181-191.
  4. R.I. Chelcea, R. Fechete, E. Culea, D.E. Demco, B. Blümich, 2009, Distributions of transverse relaxation times for soft-solids measured in strongly inhomogeneous magnetic fields, Journal of Magnetic Resonance 196, 2, p.178-190.
  5. J.P.M. van Duynhoven, A. Voda, M. Witek, H. Van As, 2010, Time-Domain NMR Applied to Food Products Annual Reports on NMR Spectroscopy, Vol. 69, Chapter 3, p.145-197.
  6. J.P.M. van Duynhoven, 2009, Food and Nutritional Science, Applications of Magnetic Resonance, Encyclopedia of Spectroscopy and Spectrometry, p.663-670.
  7. P.J. McDonald, J.-P. Korb, J. Mitchell and L. Monteilhet, 2005, Surface relaxation and chemical exchange in hydrating cement pastes: a two-dimensional NMR relaxation study, Phys. Rev. E 72, p.011409.
  8. C. Melian, Dan E. Demco, M. Istrate, A. Balaceanu, D. Moldovan, R. Fechete, C. Popescu, M. Möller, 2009, Morphology and side-chain dynamics in hydrated hard α-keratin fibres by 1H solid-state NMR, Chemical Physics Letters 480, 4-6 p. 300-304.
  9. M. Mouddab, L.Foucot, J.P.Donnat, J.P.Renou, J.M.Bonny, 2007, Absolute quantification of Na+ bound fractionby double-quantum filtered 23Na NMR spectroscopy, Journal of Magnetic Resonance 189, p.151–155.
  10. S. M. Møller, A. Grossi, M. Christensen, V. Orlien, J. Søltoft-Jensen, I. K. Straadt, A. K. Thybo, H. C. Bertram, 2011, Water properties and structure of pork sausages as affected by high-pressure processing and addition of carrot fibre. Meat Science, 87, p.387-393.

temperature, aging, degradation, viscosity, permeability. water content, food composition Analytical instruments 2.1.1 physical other other Scopus, Science Direct, Springer Link Search terms: NMR spectroscopy, food technology, food control WikiSysop :Template:Review document :Template:Review status

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Created by WikiSysop on 30 October 2011, at 15:56