CEM, an innovator in microwave technology, have addressed the preparation of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME’s) as a preliminary step for the gas chromatographic analysis of fatty acids in food labelling.
As part of their policy for continued innovation CEM have now looked at how they might use microwaves to improve the preparation of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME’s), bearing in mind the increased need for better food labelling in today’s markets.
FAME’s are an important intermediary in the analysis of foodstuff fatty acids, as well as in biodiesel production. With increased pressure and new regulations on producers to show fat content of their foods, it is important that the analysis is carried out as accurately and cost effectively as possible.
Omega-3 fatty acids, as in fish oils, are particularly important as they have cardioprotective actions, help maintain brain function and can affect fat cell composition.
FAME production currently involves saponification of esterified fatty acids with re-esterification to form methyl esters – essentially the foodstuff is heated in the presence of a strong alkali, such as potassium hydroxide, and then esterified with a catalyst like boron triflouride prior to extraction and gas chromatography.
The company says that this process is quite complicated and time consuming, taking up to a day, and some of the catalysts used are dangerous with a short shelf life.
However CEM, in association with University College Dublin, say they have produced a protocol to speed up the initial FAME production by the application of microwave energy.
Using CEM’s easy-to use MARS 6 Microwave Reaction System, catalyst-free FAME preparation took only one hour to completion and the subsequent fatty acid profiles of a range of foods, for both microwave assisted and conventionally prepared FAME, were both quantitatively and qualitatively similar.
This represents a major time saving as well as being a greener approach to the problem.