Technology To Detect Bitter Almonds

November 2, 2021

Who has not ever chewed an almond and tasted an unpleasant and unexpected aftertaste that has nothing to do with the taste we are used to from one of the most consumed nuts in the world? The culprit has a name: amygdalin, a diglycoside that, in contact with the enzymes present in saliva, breaks down into glucose, benzaldehyde (causing the bitter taste) and hydrogen cyanide.

To reduce this unpleasant “surprise”, the Agricultural Systems Engineering (AGR-128) and Food Technology (AGR-193) research groups of the Higher Technical School of Agricultural and Forestry Engineers of the University of Córdoba, with the collaboration of the Alameda del Obispo Center of the Andalusian Institute for Agricultural Research and Training, have developed a method that allows predicting the levels of the aforementioned amygdalin present in the dried fruits analyzed both with and without shell, as well as correctly classifying sweet almonds and almonds. the bitter ones on an industrial scale, something that until now had only been made with shelled nuts, with individual or ground grains.

How does it work?

The new system uses portable equipment based on NIRS technology – Near Infrared Spectroscopy – which allows the analysis of large quantities of a product in situ and in real time, without the need to go to a laboratory. This technological application is “of great interest to the agricultural sector”, explains Professor Dolores Pérez Marín, since the bitterness of almonds in the wild can be useful to prevent predators from ingesting the seeds of certain varieties, but on an industrial scale It does not offer any advantages and does offer many disadvantages: an unpleasant taste, the devaluation of the product and possible food safety problems if the consumption of bitter nuts occurs on a large scale.

Technically, NIRS sensors use a beam of light that, when interacting with organic matter, returns a unique signal (spectrum) for each product sample, as in an unmistakable fingerprint that provides information and allows the sample to be defined. In this case, as explained by the doctoral student and first author of the research work, Miguel Vega Castellote, the portable sensors, “whose signal together with the reference values ​​allow the development of prediction models”, are capable of analyzing different parameters “scanning” the product quickly and non-invasively, that is, without modifying it.

Food fraud

The use of NIRS technology, in which the research team has extensive experience with a number of food products, is especially helpful in early detection of potential fraud and in food authentication. For this reason, the team has started another research project aimed at detecting batches of sweet almonds adulterated with other bitter ones and in which almost 90% of fraudulent articles were identified. The system tested in this research, explains Professor María Teresa Sánchez Pineda de las Infantas, another of the authors of the work, “could be implemented at any point in the value chain, including reception, during processing and shipment, and could be used as a rapid and affordable anti-fraud early warning method. ‘

Dr. Loony Davis5
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Born and raised in Brussels in an English family, I have always lived in a multicultural environment. After several work experiences in marketing and communication, I came to Smart Water Magazine, which I describe as the most exciting challenge of my career.
I am a person with great restlessness and curiosity to learn, discover what I do not know, as well as reinvent myself daily, someone who is curious about life and wants to know. I enjoy sharing knowledge.
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