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Destaillats F, Cruz-Hernandez C, Giuffrida F, Dionisi F. Identification of the Botanical Origin of Pine Nuts Found in Food Products by Gas-Liquid Chromatography Analysis of Fatty Acid Profile. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Feb 24;58(4):2082-7.
Pine nuts are traditionally used in various part of the world for the preparation of desserts or sauces or in salads. Local production is not sufficient to cope with the high demand of pine nuts around the world, and countries such as China or Pakistan are exporting much of their production to Western countries. Almost all the nuts that are traditionally consumed belong to the Pinus genus, but over the past years, the number of consumer complaints following consumption of commercial pine nuts increased. Some consumers experienced taste disturbance lasting for up to two weeks after consumption. Food safety agencies raised some concerns regarding pine nuts imported from Asia and their association with taste disturbance. However, even though a formal association has not been found to date, the Pinus genus comprises species that are not classified as edible and could be eventually used to adulterate edible species. Pinus spp. seed lipids are known to contain very specific polyunsaturated fatty acids know as Delta5-olefinic acids. Seed fatty acid profile of conifers had been used in the past as a taxonomic marker, and in the present study to identify the botanical origin of pine nut in nine commercial products. Fast gas-liquid chromatography (GLC) was used to resolve the complete fatty acid profile of Pinus spp. samples in less than 5 min. A diagnostic index based on the relative levels of the main fatty acids including distinctive Delta5-olefinic acids was used to identify botanical origins. Results revealed the occurrence of the following Pinus spp. in commercial products: P. pinea, P. koraiensis, P. gerardiana, P. armandii and P. massoniana. The later two species, known as Chinese white pine and Chinese red pine, are only cultivated in China and are not listed as common source of edible pine nuts by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The present study shows that the botanical origin of pine nuts can be identified in products based on the fatty acid profile.