Solid Fat Content (SFC) is a crucial quality control parameter for edible oils used in the bakery, confectionery and margarine industries. However, traditional methods are slow and inaccurate. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) can transform how we comply with official standards and determine the precise SFC in edible oils and fats.
Improving health and the taste experience
Food production is subject to hundreds of regulations designed to protect the safety and health of the consumer. However, advice – and legislation – relating to fat profiles change all the time as scientists come to realize the benefits or harms of particular substances. Trans fats are a good example of a substance that was previously thought to be beneficial, but we now know actually raises the risk of coronary artery disease. Reducing trans fats requires reformulation of the product without losing the properties that entice us to buy it.
Solid Fat Content (SFC), in particular, plays a huge role in how our food tastes and feels. ‘Mouthfeel’ is one of the most critical aspects of how we perceive food and it’s largely down to the types of fat used in the products. People of a certain age may remember the old advertising slogan: “the milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands’ – that’s one way SFC plays a role: by determining the melting profiles of various edible oils used in confectionary.
At the other end of the scale, SFC helps ascertain at what temperatures food can be stored, retaining its safety and quality throughout production and distribution. SFC therefore plays a key role in how we produce and store food, as well as how we make it healthier and tastier.
Accurately measuring SFC is therefore a critical part of the food production process. Traditionally, dilatometry, a thermo-analytical method for measuring the shrinkage or expansion of materials over a controlled temperature regime, would be used. However, this is regarded as slow, inaccurate and cumbersome. Instead, many companies and laboratories have turned to NMR to ascertain the precise levels of SFC in any given product.
A simple, speedy process
The NMR measurement process is easy: after melting then cooling the samples to zero for an hour, each sample is heated to the right temperature and then an eight-second snapshot taken of both the solid and liquid signals from the NMR Free Induction Decay (FID) of the sample. The sample heating and measurement is repeated for each temperature of interest until a full melting profile has been obtained for each sample.
That’s why NMR has been the method of choice for the food industry for decades but finding the right device can be a challenge. The process may be simple, but the associated software and technical equipment plays a key role too.
The Oxford Instruments MQC+23 NMR analyser aims to wrap everything a lab might need into one sleek package. It comes with SFC calibration, analysis and reporting software, which guides the user through the measurement process, keeping a record of sample identification and measurement temperatures. The integrated Solid Fat Reporter software then allows data to be examined, plotted and exported to other programmes as well as generating melting profile curves. And all this is aided by instructions in English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.
This sophisticated software allows the user to measure precisely the changing fat profiles as temperatures rise – with no scope for human error. Moreover, the same NMR device and software can be used to for other measurements, such as oil and/or fat content in food.
NMR is a clean, fast and reliable method for the analysis of SFC in edible oils. It provides a more effective way of getting accurate results whilst requiring little training.
If you need to monitor the SFC content of edible oils, the Oxford Instruments MQC+23 NMR Analyser provides a fully compliant, user-friendly solution with a small benchtop footprint.