saffron laboratory test
12/01/2023

What Information Do We Get from Saffron Laboratory Tests?

Saffron contains valuable chemical ingredients in varying amounts, based on the origin and quality of the saffron product. Saffron chemical ingredients, crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal, bring red coloring, aroma, and taste of the saffron, as well as many other health benefits. The high value of saffron, both in terms of cost and health benefits, increases the risks of supplying fake saffron, to international saffron buyers. The laboratory tests on saffron ensure the final consumer about the quality of the product and even clarify the origin of saffron. What do saffron laboratory tests examine and what types of tests are done on saffron to ensure quality?

Laboratory tests help customers rely on the quality of the purchased product, once it is examined by a reputable lab. This time, we intend to focus on the types of saffron laboratory tests and what they normally examine.

Generally, saffron quality is determined by a series of characteristic parameters (or endogenous parameters). Endogenous parameters include physical and chemical parameters such as humidity, flower residue or foreign material and ashes content, foreign matter related to environment, coloring power, or soluble condensate. Plus, the external and exogenous parameters of the saffron product are tested during the quality analysis.

Chemical test includes floral waste, moisture and volatile matter, total ash, solubility in cold water, crocin, safranal, and picrocrocin based on dry matter, bitterness, coloring strength, extraction and detection of added color or aroma, pigments, total nitrogen, crude fiber, enterococcus, Escherichia coli, sulfite-reducing clostridia.

Saffron laboratory tests fall into three common categories of physical, chemical, microbial tests. Other tests such as heavy metals, PAH, etc. can be conducted upon the request of customers. SunLand Laboratory tests more than 1500 samples of saffron product per year, including the company saffron production line and for national organizations, relying on its expertise and well-equipped testing abilities. Our saffron Laboratory conducts three main types of saffron laboratory tests using the most updated equipment. therefore, lab tests can testify to the quality and purity of our saffron products.

Below, you will find more information on the types of saffron tests and how they help customers rely on the quality of the purchased products:

What information do we get from each type of different saffron test?

Each type of saffron test provides different information to make sure about the quality of saffron. Below, we introduce what information we should expect to receive from each type of test:

1- Saffron physical analysis

Physical analysis of the saffron is one of the basic types of tests to determine the quality of the saffron. This includes analysis of cream and stigma, plus foreign matter: extraneous matter related to the saffron plant, and foreign matter related to the environment.

2- Saffron chemical analysis

We gather various information regarding the quality of saffron chemical ingredients, using this type of test. Moisture and volatile matter content, total ash based on dry matter, acid-insoluble ash based on dry matter, soluble extract in cold water based on dry matter, picrocrocin, safranal, and crocin based on dry matter, extraction and detection of added colors, general enumeration of micro-organisms, Escherichia coli, and molds and yeasts are the lists of information gained through saffron chemical tests.

saffron chemical test

3- Saffron microbiological analysis

Saffron microbiological analysis detects the ferment and coliform organisms (Escherichia coli) as defined in ISO 4833, Iso7954, and ISO 16649-2. According to standards, the saffron pathogenic microorganisms and their toxins should be:

  • Escherichia coli (1*101 col/g)
  • Salmonella (absence of 25g)
  • Sulfite-reducing clostridia: (1*103 col/g)
  • General enumeration of micro-organisms
  • Moulds and yeasts
saffron microbial test

4- Saffron heavy metal tests

Minor components of minerals and heavy metals found in saffron, affect the quality of saffron as well as human health. The number of heavy metals in saffron can identify the origin of the product, as the levels of those metals are varied in different origins. Some companies require saffron heavy metal tests, including Arsenic, Plumbum (lead) , and Mercury. These tests are only done upon the customer’s request and test requirements

saffron heavy metal test

5- Additional tests (upon customer requests)

Generally, saffron and herbs laboratory tests can identify species, origin validation, organic validation, allergens, composition, and the existence and level of pesticides used to grow the saffron product.

These laboratory tests can include the test of PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocabons), anthracene, benzo (b) fluoranthene, chryse, etc. in case of customer’s demand and requirement. These tests are requested by some companies of special industries for more accurate results.

List of saffron test methods and standards:

There are several test methods and standards to inspect the different characteristics of herbs and spices, including:

  • ISO 3632-2:2010: for saffron (Crocus Sativus) quality and specification 
  • ASTA 2.0- Moisture (distillation method)
  • ASTA 3.0 -Total Ash (on a dry basis) 
  • ASTA 4.0 – Acid insoluble ash
  • ASTA 5.2 -Steam volatile oil in spices
  • ASSTA 60 – Water activity
  • ASTA 7.0 -Crude fiber (on a dry basis) 
  • ASTA 14.1 – Extraneous matter in spices (excluding pepper)
  • Total nitrogen % (on a dry basis) 
  • Solubility in cold water (on a dry basis) 
  • ISIRI 259-1 & ISIRI 259-2

What laboratory tests detect potential saffron adulterations?

Saffron has always been subjected to many adulterations for its high price value. Two methods are used to detect adulteration in laboratories: high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), microscopic analysis, and thin-layer chromatography (TLC).

In the HPLC method different elements such as dye substances (used to increase saffron coloring intensity), artificial dye substances, water-soluble acid, or fat-soluble dye substances are evaluated. This method is the most sensitive technique to detect saffron dye substances and acid-water soluble dye substances.

The second way, thin-layer chromatography (TLC), detects bacterial analysis even on large samples at an average cost.

Moreover, microscopic and analytical techniques like TLC & UV Visible Spectrophotometry are performed on saffron samples to check the rapid authenticity test of genuine saffron.

How to detect insecticide residue in lab tests?

Spanish HAR (Highest Acceptable Residue) regulation specified the list of 430 pesticides in spices including azafrán, according to the unified law of April 2005. Insecticides and fungicides limits vary from 0.01 mg/kg according to standards. Pesticide analysis is done using gas chromatography (GC) through mass spectrometry detection.

Considering all above information, international saffron buyers can make sure about the quality of the purchased product, once they come with laboratory test results.

This blog post only explores the general information we achieve from saffron laboratory tests. Surely, more detailed and customized tests can be done upon customer request. SunLand, normally conducts all regular tests to ensure customers and traders about the quality of the saffron products. The saffron laboratory tests are usually a mandatory requirement to ensure the origin and quality of the saffron, especially for Iranian saffron.

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