[Translate to english:] Analyse von Inhaltsstoffen


The analysis of ingredients in foodstuffs

Foodstuffs consist of a variety of components. Some of these are the nutrients, diverse natural ingredients or additives and foreign substances

The latter may be present in foodstuffs only in quantities that are completely harmless to health. Corresponding maximum levels are laid down in Swiss legislation, among others in the Contaminants Ordinance (VHK).

Further legal requirements of the ingredients and quality of foodstuffs are defined in these ordinances, among others:

  • FDHA Ordinance on Information on Foodstuffs (FoodIO)
  • FDHA Ordinance on Foodstuffs for Persons with Special Dietary Requirements (SDRO)
  • FDHA Ordinance on Foodstuffs of Vegetable Origin, Fungi and Table Salt  (VFO)
  • FDHA Ordinance on Foodstuffs of Animal Origin (AFO)
  • FDHA Ordinance on Beverages

Are you looking for an accredited Swiss contract laboratory for the testing of ingredients in foodstuffs? We test for you according to state-of-the-art standards.

We will test for you in accordance with the Swiss Book of Foodstuffs (Schweizer Lebensmittelbuch, SLMB) using the latest methods.

Would you like to know which investigations are necessary to ensure the harmlessness and the marketability of your products? We would be happy to advise you which analyses could provide you with a suitable statement for the classification of quality of your foodstuffs. 

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Head of Order Management Food & Feed Services

Sascha Theobald

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Why the monitoring of ingredients is important

There are a number of reasons why it is important to regularly monitor the non-nutritive ingredients in foodstuffs, and this also includes ingredients occurring naturally.

There are also natural ingredients that can, similar to unwanted foreign substances, produce a harmful effect. To conform with the law, these must be declared and must not exceed the prescribed limit values.

Other ingredients and reaction products can be used as indicators for the classification of the quality of the product or can provide evidence of a gentle processing of the foodstuff. Thus, the various products can be compared qualitatively.

Testing high-value ingredients for their authenticity can be used for quality assurance and ensures the correct declaration of the product.

Hydrogen cyanide is a natural ingredient of bitter almonds
Hydrogen cyanide is a natural ingredient of bitter almonds

Analysis of ingredients used for the quality grading of foodstuffs:

  • Amino acids: Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Of the proteinogenic amino acids, eight of them are essential for adults, meaning that they must be incorporated into food. These are: Isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine, and for infants, additionally arginine and histidine. In the human body, the proteinogenic amino acids are involved in the forming of messenger substances, hormones and enzymes among other processes. They are particularly important for the immune system because mainly glutamine is necessary for the formation of immune cells. The combination and balance of the various amino acids (amino acid profile) determines the quality of a foodstuff. To test the quality, amino acids are frequently monitored for foodstuffs in the baby food sector and dietary preparations for muscle development purposes. It is also analytically possible to investigate both the connected proteinogenic amino acids and the free amino acids. In their free form, amino acids contribute to the taste of foodstuffs. In this way, the salt of the amino acid glutamic acid (glutamate) is used as a flavour enhancer in foodstuffs and can be quantified enzymatically.
  • 5-(Hydroxymethyl)furfural: When carbohydrates and foodstuffs containing sugar are heated, then the result is the substance 5-(Hydroxymethyl)furfural (5-HMF). A high level of HMF would indicate a prolonged period of warming or storage so that 5-HMF can be used as an indicator of heat treatment in foodstuffs (e.g. in honey, milk, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages etc.). According to the specifications, honey should have a maximum 5-HMF content of 40 mg/kg, unless the honey originates from tropical regions.
  • Total volatile basic nitrogen (TVB-N) and trimethylamine nitrogen (TMA-N): Both of these substances are parameters used, along with the content of biogenic amines and histamine, for assessing the decay of fisheries products. TVB-N results from the microbial degradation of protein and TMA-N from the microbial degradation of trimethylamine N-oxide that occurs as an osmolyte in salt-water fish and crustaceans. Limits values are defined in the Swiss Ordinance on Foreign Substances and Ingredients in Food Products (FIV) for both substances depending on the species of fish.
Sample preparation for the determination of ingredients
Sample preparation for the determination of ingredients
  • Essential oils: Essential oils are secondary phytonutrients which can be used as quality indicators for the smell and taste of spices and herbs. The quantitative contents are very much dependent upon the type of spice and can amount to values of 0.4 % for saffron and coriander and up to 20 % for cloves. Some essential oils in high concentrations e.g. coumarin also have a toxic effect. Because they are used as aromas in foodstuffs, limit values have been defined in the FIB (e.g. for alcohol-containing beverages and caramel confectionaries).
  • 3-hydroxybutyric acid Evidence of these parameters indicates the use of fertilised and incubated eggs. Controls are typically carried out on raw materials for the manufacturing of egg products.
  • Creatinine: Creatinine is used in the evaluation of the quality and determination of meat content in meat extracts. In accordance with the Ordinance of the Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs (EDI) on Soups, Spices and Vinegar, meat extracts must exhibit a creatinine content of a minimum of 8.5 percent of mass with regard to the amount of dry matter.
  • Quality control for wines: Sensory devaluations can be proven by evidence from chemical substances. This is, for example, why 2-Aminoacetophenone is known to be a cause for atypical ageing. Trichloranisole and Tribromanisole can be identified as the causes for the corky taste.
  • Quality control for olive oils: To be classified in the highest “extra virgin” class of goods in accordance with the Swiss legislature, olive oils must not exceed an acidity of 3.55ml 1M NaOH per 100g of oil. Many oils fulfil these requirements. For further differentiation between “extra virgin” olive oils, additional parameters such as polyphenol, which would indicate a particularly gentle processing, may be consulted. Additional analyses for alkyl esters, hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein or K-values provide additional statements of quality.
  • Ergosterol: Ergosterol is a metabolite from yeasts and moulds that is consulted for the assessment of quality. This is particularly important for tomato products (e.g. ketchup) and berry products (e.g. jam). An increased ergosterol content could indicate that the raw materials used are infested with mould.


Analysis of ingredients that could have harmful effects:

  • Allergenic ingredients
  • Hydrogen cyanide: In a variety of plant-based foods such as linseed, bitter almonds, the seeds of stone fruit or drupes etc., cyanogenic glycocides occur as natural ingredients. Poisonous hydrogen cyanide can be released from these substances by enzymatic hydrolysis in the case of damage to the plant tissue or by the microflora in the intestinal tract. As a result, limit values have been defined in the legislature for stone fruits, spirits made from stone foods, marzipan as well as foodstuffs in general.
  • Glycyrrhizinic acid: Glycyrrhizinic acid is a natural component of liquorice or Glycyrrhiza. This bioactive substance can, with excessive consumption, lead to high blood pressure. As a result, the legislature has defined a labelling requirement for foodstuffs containing liquorice depending on the quantitative content of Glycyrrhizinic acid.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): THC occurs in hemp plants that are increased being used in the production of foodstuffs such as hemp beer, hemp seed oil or hemp tea. As THC is a narcotic, limit values for the THC content for such foodstuffs have been prescribed in the legislature.
  • Phytic acid: Phytic acid is an undesirable bioactive ingredient that occurs particularly in whole-grain products, legumes, and nuts. It forms bonds with minerals obtained from food eaten by the person with the result that these minerals are then no longer available to the body. In the production of full-grain products, the phytic content is therefore reduced by carrying out special dough making processes.
Sample preparation for the determination of ingredients
Sample preparation for the determination of ingredients

Analysis of high-quality ingredients for authenticity and declaration verifications:

  • Cholesterol: Cholesterol is particularly suitable for analysis of the distribution of fatty acids for testing whether animal or vegetable fats have been used in a product because it is only present in large quantities in animal fats. It can also contribute to the identification of unknown fats and oils. People with an increased cholesterol level are dependent on a cholesterol free or low in cholesterol diet. Receiving acknowledgement for conforming to the statutory regulations and the declaration of a foodstuff to be of low cholesterol also requires a quantitative monitoring of the cholesterol content.
  • Caffeine and gluconolactone: For special beverages containing caffeine (“Energy Drinks”), there is a statutory maximum level for the stimulating substance gluconolactone and a minimum and maximum level for caffeine. Quantitative analysis of both of these substances must therefore be performed to test the marketability and the correct declaration for such beverages.
  • Authenticity testing for vanilla: By performing quantitative analysis of the natural ingredients of methyl vanillin, ethyl vanillin, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde and p-hydroxy benzoic acid, a distinction can be made between the usage of synthetically manufactured vanilla or natural vanilla extracts from Vanilla planifolia. An expanded test programme that also contains the analysis of anisic aldehyde and anisic acid among other substances also enables distinction between the use of Vanilla tahitiensis and Vanilla planifolia.
  • Authenticity testing for wasabi: Using molecular biological and chemical methods, testing may be performed to distinguish between the use of expensive and high quality Japanese Wasabi (Wasabia japonica or Eutrema japonica) from substitute materials such as horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) or different types of mustard in foodstuffs.
  • Distribution of triglycerides: Investigation of the triglyceride distribution enables vegetable fats to be identified.


Analytical challenges in the determination of ingredients

As a result of the large number of different tests in the area of ingredient analysis, a wealth of experience, a suitable level of infrastructure and a wide range of devices and portfolio of methods is necessary to be able to satisfy all of the extensive customer requirements. When special analyses are required, UFAG LABORATORIEN can guarantee that, using strategic partnerships with specialised laboratories, the very widest range of test parameters can be shown in an individual test report and that as a result, the consultation can be performed holistically.

Our services in detail:

  • Advice on the analysis of ingredients
  • Determination of amino acids
  • Determination of vitamins
  • Chemical analysis: Cannabinoids (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabigerol (CBG), hemp, and related substances
  • Determination of additional ingredients
  • Additional services are according to the directory of services or upon request.
[Translate to english:] Analyse von Inhaltsstoffen
[Translate to english:] Analyse von Inhaltsstoffen

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