Kant. Laboratorium BS
Page 1 of 3
Truffles and foods containing truffle / types of truffle, flavouring, declaration
Joint campaign by the State Laboratories of Basel-City (main laboratory) and Zurich Number of samples tested: 14 Grounds for objection: Objected to: 10 (71%) Fraud, declaration
Background Because of their intense and tasty flavour, truffles are a popular but valuable delicacy. The uncontested king of truffles is the white Piedmont or Alba truffle: its price per kilogramme can be anything up to 6,000 Swiss francs. Perigord and winter truffles are traded for between 1,500 and 2,000 francs, and even for the less intense tasting summer and autumn [known in the UK as Burgundy or black] truffles you can expect to pay around 600 francs. Considerably cheaper – in the culinary sense too – are the less valuable Chinese truffles (Tuber indicum) which achieve an import price of less than 100 francs per kilogramme. Although the Chinese truffle is not on the list of permitted edible mushrooms in Switzerland and may only be sold with a permit from the Federal Office of Public Health, over the past few years importers and traders have repeatedly attempted to sell the Chinese truffles as Perigord truffles, since it is almost impossible to distinguish them by eye.
Autumn truffle (Tuber uncinatum)
Source: foto-net / Hannes Däppen
Chinese truffle (Tuber indicum)
Source: foto-net / Kurt Schorrer
Aims of the investigation As foods containing truffle are associated in the mind of the consumer with something that is particularly valuable, yet both comparatively cheap types of truffle and synthetically manufactured truffle flavours identical to those in nature are available for the production of foodstuffs, it is not surprising that in this sector products are offered which appear to consumers to be of a higher value than they really are. This was confirmed by the investigations which we carried out two years ago into flavoured olive oil with particular reference to truffles. All five types of oil investigated were rejected because analysis showed that the organoleptic qualities could be traced back to the addition of artificial white truffle flavouring identical to that in nature. Therefore the aim of this investigation was to check more food products for misleading information with reference to truffles. Statutory basis According to Article 10 of the Ordinance on Foodstuffs and Utility Articles (LGV) the labelling, information, illustrations, wrappings, packaging, labels on wrapping and packaging, types of packaging and blurb used on food products must correspond to the facts and/or may not give rise to fraud especially with regard to the nature, origin, manufacture, type of production, composition, content and shelf life of the food product concerned. In particular, it is also forbidden to give information which might lead to the conclusion that a food product has a value above its actual quality (LGV Article 10, Section 2, Clause e).
Trueffelbericht.doc Created: 10/01/2007 11:16:00
Kant. Laboratorium BS
Page 2 of 3
In order to prevent fraud in connection with foods containing truffles, the Ordinance on Mushrooms includes among others the following clauses concerning edible mushrooms and yeast:
• Only the following fungi of the Tuber genus may be referred to as truffles (Article 16 Section
• • • •
2): summer truffle (Tuber aestivum Vitt.), autumn truffle (Tuber uncinatum), winter [black] truffle (Tuber brumale Vitt.), whitish [or Marzuolo] truffle or white spring truffle (Tuber albidum Pico, synonymous with Tuber borchii Vitt.), Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum Vitt.) and the Piedmont or Alba truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico), frequently also known as the white truffle. Other fungi of the Tuber genus are not permitted as edible mushrooms and may not be sold to consumers. If a foodstuff contains a minimum of 1% of truffles, then it may be labelled as “containing X% truffles” (Article 17 Section 2 Clause b). If a foodstuff contains a minimum of 3% of truffles, the percentage content does not have to be shown. The product may be labelled as “with truffles” (Article 17 Section 2 Clause a). Labels referring to truffles in particular may not be added to foodstuffs that contain less than 1% of truffles (Article 17 Section 3).
The following must also be noted (Ordinance on the Labelling and Promotion of Food, Article 34): • If a particular ingredient is mentioned in the labelling of a food product (e.g. with truffles) and if the organoleptic qualities of this ingredient are mainly created by the addition of flavour, the reference must say “with X flavouring” or “with the taste of X” (e.g. “with truffle flavouring”). • Illustrations of truffles are regarded as particular references to truffles and are not permitted for flavoured products of this sort on principle. Sample description The samples of whole truffles (3) and food products containing truffles (11), shown below, were taken from various wholesale distributors.
Food product Fresh autumn truffle White truffle in moist conserve Summer truffle in moist conserve White truffle (granules) Olive oil with truffle flavour Butter spread with truffles Cheese with truffles Ravioli with truffles Sea salt with truffles Risotto with truffles Fondue with truffles Approx. sales price in CHF 900.-/kg 1000.-/kg 750.-/kg 340.-/kg 150.- and 230.-/l 130.- and 310.-/kg 65.- and 70.-/kg 50.-/kg 80.-/kg 45.-/kg 30.-/kg Total No. of samples 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 14
Test methods The analysis of the flavour components was carried out at the State Laboratory of Basel-City using the headspace GC/MS method. The identification of the species of truffle was carried out at the State Laboratory of Zurich, using both a microscope and PCR. Results For both the fresh autumn truffle and the moist conserves with white truffle and summer truffle, the findings of the microscopic examination and the PCR result agreed with the species of truffle as declared in each case. The flavouring components also proved typical for the species of truffle in each case. Accordingly, these samples gave no reason for objection. With the exception of the flavoured olive oils, where an equivalent investigation is impossible because of the absence of pieces of truffle which may be amplified and/or examined using a
Trueffelbericht.doc Created: 10/01/2007 11:16:00
Kant. Laboratorium BS
Page 3 of 3
microscope, in all the other samples the microscopic findings and the PCR result also agreed with the species of truffle as declared in each case. However, all the products with the exception of the fondue with truffle had to be rejected on the following grounds: • In the case of the product declared to be granules of white truffle it transpired that essentially this consisted of the carrier material maltodextrine and only contained approx. 7% truffle. To be sure, the species of truffle in the list of ingredients (Tuber albidum Pico) was correct, but the generic description “white truffle” is also misleading because it refers to the Alba or Piedmont truffle which is ten times more expensive. As the analysis also showed, the product was also spiked with flavouring identical to the natural flavour of the white truffle, which was also concealed in the wording of the product declaration. • According to the list of ingredients, the risotto with truffles contained 1.5% truffle granules. As this refers to the “truffle granules” described above, it is easy to calculate that the proportion of truffles in the product was manifestly lower than 1%. Reference to truffles in the generic description is therefore not permitted (see “Statutory basis”). No wonder that the product nevertheless smelt of truffles – here too some extra help was given in the form of flavouring without the appropriate declaration. • Again, according to the list of ingredients, the “sea salt with truffles” contained 5% summer truffles. However, the downright penetrating smell that hit one’s nose when the packet was opened came not from the summer truffles which it contained but from an enormous amount of flavouring which similarly was not listed. • The truffle ravioli, one of the butter spreads and both sorts of cheese with truffles contained undeclared truffle flavouring along with the pieces of summer truffle. • In another butter spread with summer truffles the addition of truffle flavouring was noted in the list of ingredients. But, as in most of the other products, here too the main components of the aroma were dominated by the white truffle, resulting from the flavouring of the product, whilst other components of the aroma originating from the addition of summer truffles played a subordinate role. The product was also rejected because here too the appropriate reference “with truffle flavouring” was absent. • On the labels for both samples of olive oil there were pictures of white truffles. Also, in the list of ingredients reference was made to the use of truffles or truffle extract to flavour the product. However, both the analysis and the subsequent clarifications given by the importers and producers confirmed the use of synthetically produced flavouring identical to the natural flavouring, which is why the products were rejected. • In the case of the fondue with truffles, the addition of truffle flavouring was shown in the list of ingredients. Since the flavour analysis also showed that the added flavouring did not dominate the actual truffle flavour components of the summer truffle that it contained, there was no reason to reject the product. Conclusions and measures taken Unfortunately the results show that consumers are being deceived by the majority of foodstuffs with truffles that are available. They are prepared to pay high prices for these products because they think that they are getting a delicious, high quality product. But the fact that the taste of truffles comes not from the truffles used in the product – which as a rule are present at best only in small quantities – but from the addition of a flavouring which is essentially identical to the main flavouring components of white truffles but is synthetically produced and thus cheap is unfortunately often suppressed in the product declaration. The labels of the rejected products must now be modified by the importers and producers responsible so that they conform to the law. In particular, the addition of flavouring must be declared in the list of ingredients, the products may no longer carry any misleading pictures of truffles and any references to “truffles” in the generic description must be endorsed with the words “with truffle flavouring”. Because of the high quota of rejects and the enormous potential for fraud, we advise that we shall definitely be carrying out further checks in this product segment.
Created: 10/01/2007 11:16:00