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Truffles have been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance in the last several years; ever more processed foods are being sold with the addition of truffles. Even discount shops are offering truffled foods, mostly by delicatessens offering specialties for festive occasions. Truffles are known to be one of the most expensive foods; the Alba white truffle (Tuber magnatum), for example, can cost as much as 6,000 Euros per kilogram. However, there is also a wide pallet of inferior grades such as the Chinese black truffle (T. indicum), which smell and taste less like a truffle, and cost much less (7% thereof) than the Alba or Périgord truffle (T. melanosporum). The use of inferior truffles and falsely declared truffle products is not only a culinary disappointment for consumers, but often, in fact, a criminal case of consumer fraud and a lucrative business for the defrauders. The authenticity of the declarations regarding truffles has seldom been analyzed. However, strict monitoring of truffle products is necessary. The actual analysis of truffles is not particularly difficult; a microscopic investigation suffices in most cases. Therefore, between September 2012 und May 2013, ten truffle-labeled products from supermarkets were put under the microscope. We wanted to know whether the content as stated on the packaging was, indeed, in the truffle product.
05.09.2013 Truffles in Processed Foods – Truly Valuable or Just Empty Praise? Report from a day in the lab Truffles have been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance in the Tuber magnatum last several years; ever more processed foods are being sold with the addition of truffles. Even discount shops are offering truffled foods, mostly by delicatessens offering specialties for festive occa- sions. Truffles are known to be one of the most expensive foods; the Alba white truffle (Tuber magnatum), for example, can cost as much as 6,000 Euros per kilogram. However, there is also a wide pallet of inferior grades such as the Chinese black truffle (T. indicum), which smell and taste less like a truffle, and cost much less (7% thereof) Choiromyces venosus than the Alba or Périgord truffle (T. melanosporum). The use of infe- rior truffles and falsely declared truffle products is not only a culi- nary disappointment for consumers, but often, in fact, a criminal case of consumer fraud and a lucrative business for the defrauders. The authenticity of the declarations regarding truffles has seldom been analyzed. However, strict monitoring of truffle products is nec- essary. The actual analysis of truffles is not particularly difficult; a microscopic investigation suffices in most cases. Therefore, be- tween September 2012 und May 2013, ten truffle-labeled products Tuber borchii from supermarkets were put under the microscope. We wanted to know whether the content as stated on the packaging was, indeed, in the truffle product. Truffle Trivia The „Guidelines for Fungi and Fungal Products“ , published in 2008 by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (Ger- many), lists the following types of „truffles“ specified on food content la- Tuber melanosporum bels: Name as Specified Scientific Name Market Price on List of Ingredients (€ / kg)  Burgundy Truffle Tuber uncinatum Chatin (also T. aestivum forma unina- tum) Chinese (Black) Tuber indicum C. & M. 60 – 200 for T. Tuber indicum Truffle (including T. himalayense indicum Zhang&Minter; T. sinense Tao & Liu) Kalahari Truffle Terfezia pfeilli Hennings Desert Truffle Terfezia leonis Tul. ((synonym T. arenaria (Moris) Trappe)) Périgord Truffle Tuber melanosporum Vitt. 800 – 3,000 ADRESSE Schaflandstraße 3/2 70736 Fellbach E-MAIL Poststelle@cvuas.bwl.de Tuber aestivum TELEFON +49 711 3426 - 1234 INTERNET www.cvua-stuttgart.de +49 711 3426 - 1727 (Diagnostik) ÖFFENTL. VERKEHRSMITTEL S-Bahn S2 und S3 FAX +49 711 588176 +49 711 3426-1729 (Diagnostik) Bus 60, 67 und 212 Haltestelle Fellbach Bahnhof Seite 2 von 9 Name as Specified Scientific Name Market Price on List of Ingredients (€ / kg)  Piemont Truffle, Tuber magnatum (Pico) Vitt. 1,500 – 6,000 White Piemont Truf- fle Black Truffle* Tuber indicum C. & M. (including 60 – 200 for T. (see also Chinese T. himalayense Zhang&Minter; indicum Truffle) T. sinense Tao & Liu) Summer Truffle Tuber aestivum Vitt. 400 – 600 for (in a broader sense also in- T. aestivum, cludes T. bituminatum Berk & 80 – 150 for T. Br., T. macrosporum Vitt., T. mensentericum mensentericum Vitt.) White Truffle* Choiromyces venosus (Fr.) Th. Fr. (Synonym: C. maeandriformis Vitt.) Winter Truffle Tuber brumale Vitt 400 – 600 * There are some differences in the designation of truffle species between English and German. In the Guideline for Fungi and Fungal Products the German named „Black truffle“ is exactly the same as the Chinese truffle, whereas, in English, the Black truffle is understood to be the Périgord truf- fle. Likewise, the German named “White truffle” is an inferior grade under- ground fruit, while, in English, the “White truffle” is understood to be the most expensive Alba truffle. For truffle products on the market, the term „truffle“ refers predominantly to the tuber species. The desert truffle (Terfezia) und Mäander truffle (Choiromyces) have little in common with real truffles, other than the bulb- ous (tuber) shaped, underground fruit forms; neither their aroma nor their taste. In addition, all “non-real” truffles are poisonous when eaten raw. There is no legal obligation in Germany for businesses that sell truffled food to provide the scientific name of the truffle species used. Unlike in Switzerland  and France , there is also no established minimum quanti- ty of truffles that a product must contain in order to be labeled with such. Seite 3 von 9 Samples Analyzed and Microscopic Results Microscopic Characteristics of the Photo spores found for the type of truffle  1 Product Truffle ham Round to ellipsoid; light Declared Truffle yellow to light brown; Spores T. aestivum loose-mesh, net-like, found irregular polygonal. The ornamentation can easily be seen in the methyl blue coloration. 1-6, usually 4, spores per Ascus Ascus with 4 spores from T. aestivum, 400 x, dyed with methyl blue 2 Product Liver paste with Ellipsoid; depending on truffles ripeness, light brown to Declared Truffle black, opaque; plump Spores T. indicum spikes whose tips are found often bent. Base of the spikes often wide and partially linked. When touched, sporadic, adja- cent spikes suggest a net pattern. (1) 2-4 (5), usually 4 spores per Ascus Ascus with 3 spores from T. indicum, 1000 x 3 Product Boiled ham with See Product Nr. 1 truffles Declared Truffle Spores T. aestivum found Ascus with 4 spores from T. aestivum, 400 x 4 Product Liverwurst with Elongated ellipsoid; with truffles ripening, from light brown Declared T. melanosporum to black-brown; ripe Seite 4 von 9 Microscopic Characteristics of the Photo spores found for the type of truffle  Spores T. melanosporum opaque; short spikes found whose bases are partial- ly connected to one an- other, through which a fine, wavy surface design is created. 1-4 (6), usually 3 (4) spores per Ascus Ascus with 4 spores from T. melanosporum, 400 x 5 Product Truffle ravioli Ellipsoid; light yellow to Declared Truffle light brown; narrow retic- Spores T. borchii ulated surface; mesh found size very constant for every single spore. 1-4, usually 2-3 spores per Ascus Asci with 1 and 2 spores from T. borchii, 400 x 6 Product Truffle cheese See Product Nr. 1 Declared Truffle aroma Spores T. aestivum found Ascus with 3 or 4 spores from T. aestivum, 400 x, SW Photo 7 Product Truffle ham See Product Nr. 2 Declared 2 % Black Truffle (Tuber indicum) Seite 5 von 9 Microscopic Characteristics of the Photo spores found for the type of truffle  Spores T. indicum found Ascus with 3 spores from T. indicum, 1000 x 8 Product Triangoloni with No truffle spores seen Porcini and Truf- fles Declared 0.0006 % Tuber magnatum Pico Spores found None found 9 Product Truffle bratwurst See Product Nr. 1 Declared Summer truffle Spores T. aestivum found Ascus with 6 spores from T. aestivum, 400 x 10 Product Truffle butter See Product Nr. 2 Declared Truffle Spores T. indicum found Ascus with 3 spores from T. indicum, 400 x Seite 6 von 9 Microscopic Characteristics of the Photo spores found for the type of truffle  T. pseudohi- Ellipsoid; light yellow to malayense dark and chestnut brown; slightly transparent, with spiky-net ornamentation, linked with each other at the base; mesh size very constant for every single spore. 1-8, usually 4-6 spores per Ascus Asci with 6 or 7 spores from T. pseudohimalayense, 400 x Surprisingly, in one sample of truffled ham (Sample 1), which was only labeled as „truffle“, T. aestivum (summer truffle) was found. In another truffled ham, with „2 % black truffle (T. indicum)“ (sample # 7) listed under the ingredients, only the cheaper T. indicum, as listed in the „Guidlines for Fungi and Fungal Products, “ was confirmed to be contained in the ham. Nevertheless, the common understanding of „black truffle“ is often con- fused with the significantly more expensive T. melanosporum (truffe noire). A truffled cheese (sample 6) from a cheese counter was labeled only with „truffle aroma“; however, with the help of just a magnifying glass (10X), we were able to recognize the typical peridien and gleba of truffles and, under a microscope, a large number of spores from the T. aestivum. That such a high quality product was labeled with an “inferior” grade gives the impres- sion that the seller isn’t knowledgeable about truffles and possibly wanted to prevent any possible fraud. In a truffled butter (sample #10), in addition to T. indicum, there was also a similar number of exotic T. pseudohimala- yense spores found. It is difficult to distinguish between the spores of T. pseudohimalayense and those of the higher quality bianchetti (T. borchii) Seite 7 von 9 truffle (T. borchii) using a microscope. However, an ascus of T. pseudo- himalayense contains 1 – 8, usually 4 – 6 spores, whereas the asci of T. borchii contain only 1 – 4, usually 2 – 3 spores [1, 2]. In addition, analyses of the truffle pieces under magnification of 10X revealed that the T. pseu- dohimalayense peridien are dark brown to black, whereas the T. borchii has thin-walled, light peridien. The findings regarding T. pseudohimala- yense are thus unambiguous. These truffles are seldom sold on the mar- ket, and smell only faintly intensive, according to the literature. In addition to spores of T. indicum, T. aestivum und Terfezia leptoderma, similar type spores were found in a truffled liverwurst spread, which was only labeled as containing the truffle T. aestivum . According to the label on a sample of „Triangoloni“ (sample # 8), the noo- dle product contained 0.0006% of the expensive Alba truffle (T. magna- tum). Although it smelled strongly of truffles, we couldn’t spot any spores, even after several samplings. The mention of the most expensive truffles may raise the assumption for the consumer that he has purchased a high quality product, even if a 250 g. package contains only 0.0015 truffles, an actual market value of only 0.009 Euros. This labeling would not be per- mitted in some European countries. In Switzerland, for example, a product that contained less than 1 mass percent of truffles would not be allowed to be labeled with special reference to its containment of truffles . Summary Although truffle fraud is generally widespread, it seems to occur fairly sel- dom in the area of industrially manufactured, ready-made products, prob- ably because of the easy verifiability. Many truffle products are only la- beled with the non-specific „truffle“ designation, so that even the use of inferior grades of truffles doesn’t constitute fraud. In our analyses the truf- fle products containing labels with specific truffle species were, by and large, correct. In order to prevent consumer deception via labeling that also encompasses lesser-grade truffles, some countries - Switzerland, for example, since 2008 - have prohibited the simple labeling of food products as containing „truffle“, without specifying the species. A similar regulation exists in France . The situation with fresh food products is different, as shown in a current report. Restaurant proprietors, butchers and others who offer truffled products, as well as consumers who buy truffles on the market, can easily be tricked and defrauded, either because the retailers are dishonest, or Seite 8 von 9 because the retailers themselves were deceived by the traders from whom they purchased the truffles. It is easy to be cheated because one needs a lot of experience to be able to recognize macroscopic differences among truffles species. Investigations that provide information regarding the quali- ty and correct labeling of truffles need to be urgently carried out. Consum- ers should be protected in view of the huge profits that the swindlers can gain, and the concomitant financial losses that the consumers thus incur. In addition to the continued analysis of truffles in processed foods, our laboratory will soon begin investigating fresh samples from markets, trad- ers, restaurants and small truffle processing companies. Literature and Comparative Material  René Flamme: Chinesische Marktpilze und Pilzmärkte (2): Truffle. Schweizerische Zeitschrift for Pilzkunde / Bulletin Suisse de Mycologie (SZP/BSM) 2005 (6), 256-7  René Flamme, Thomas Flammer, Peter Reil: Trufflen-Leitfaden zur Analyse der im Handel vorkommenden Arten (2013). IHW-Verlag, Eching, ISBN 978-3-930167-77-7  Bundesministerium for Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucher- schutz: Leitsätze for Pilze und Pilzerzeugnisse (2008) (Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection: Guidelines for Fungi and Fungal Products)  Verordnung des EDI (des Eidgenössischen Departement des Innern) über Speisepilze und Hefe (817.022.106) vom 23. November 2005 (Stand am 1. April 2008)  Décret n° 2012-129 du 30 janvier 2012 relatif à la mise sur le marché des truffes et des denrées alimentaires en contenant Peter Reil (Bösingen) und Dr. Jörg Rau (CVUA Stuttgart) have kindly pro- vided the following material: - authentic permanent mount of T. melanosporum, T. borchii, T. indicum, T. brumale and several tubers of fresh T. borchii (Peter Reil) - two tubers of T. aestivum in brine (Dr. Jörg Rau). Seite 9 von 9 Photo credits All photos of the truffle are from Antonio Rodríguez (with friendly permis- sion), to be found at http://www.trufamania.com All photos from microscopic specimens are from Dr. Pat Schreiter, CVUA Stuttgart. Author Dr. Pat Schreiter, CVUA Stuttgart.
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