A new, DNA-based method to detect pomegranate adulteration

a54cd3c4b827d991ac7206cb2486db79The large commercial success of pomegranate increase the likelihood of economically motivated adulteration, which has been gradually spotted with the undeclared addition of anthocyanin-rich plants or cheaper fruit juices used as bulking and diluting agents. A method based on Sequence-Characterized Amplified Regions (SCARs) was developed to detect the presence of Aristotelia chilensis, Aronia melanocarpa, Dioscorea alata, Euterpe oleracea, Malus × domestica, Morus nigra, Sambucus nigra, Vaccinium macrocarpon, Vaccinium myrtillus, Vitis vinifera as bulking agents in Punica granatum.

The method enabled the unequivocal detection of up to 1% of each adulterant, allowing the preemptive rejection of suspect samples. The recourse to such method may reduce the number of samples to be subjected to further phytochemical analyses when multiple batches have to be evaluated in a short time. Vice versa, it allows the cross-check of suspect batches previously tested only for their anthocyanin profile. The dimension of the amplicons is suitable for the analysis of degraded DNA obtained from stored and processed commercial material. Proper SCAR markers may represent a fast, sensitive, reliable and low-cost screening method for the authentication of processed commercial pomegranate material.

Data presented may be useful also to enforce more careful monitoring of economically motivated substitutions between different anthocyanin-rich plant materials. With proper adjustments, the SCAR markers described in our work may be used to setup similar methods to reveal further adulterations, as those recently noticed for red wine and elderberry, for bilberry and mulberry, chokeberry or elderberry. Besides the obvious trade issues, deceitful adulteration of pomegranate may also represent a matter of concern when commercial plant materials are evaluated for research purposes, since it may lead to misleading results both from the chemical, biological and nutritional standpoint.

The full manuscript is available via Food Chemistry

Marieschi, M., Torelli, A., Beghé, D., & Bruni, R. (2016). Authentication of Punica granatum L.: development of SCAR markers for the detection of 10 fruits potentially used in economically motivated adulteration. Food Chemistry 202, 438-444.
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