Reviewing the Role of Raman Spectroscopy in Food Safety Analysis

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A recent study from Hefei University examined the role that Raman spectroscopy has played in food safety analysis.

Raman spectroscopy’s key role in food safety analysis cannot be overstated. A recent review article from Hefei University examines how Raman spectroscopy has been applied in food safety and quality analysis (1).

Ensuring the highest standards of food quality and safety is crucial for maintaining human health. This necessitates the creation of sophisticated and highly sensitive techniques for detecting and identifying food pollutants.

Lead author Honglin Liu and the rest of the team at Hefei University of Technology highlighted the significant role of Raman spectroscopy in this field, explaining how the benefits of this technique had made it suitable to be used in this field.

Young man in protective workwear holding sample of green lettuce seedling | Image Credit: © pressmaster -

Young man in protective workwear holding sample of green lettuce seedling | Image Credit: © pressmaster -

Raman spectroscopy is a molecular spectroscopic technique known for its rapidity, simplicity, sensitivity, and noninvasive characteristics (2). Because of these attributes, Raman spectroscopy has emerged as a prominent method in food safety and quality analysis (2). Liu and the team focus their article on the fundamental principles, instruments, methodology, and data processing techniques of Raman spectroscopy, providing a comprehensive understanding of how this technology can be applied to detect foodborne pathogens, toxic gases in spoiled foods, and monitor the translocation of pesticides in plants (1).

The principles of Raman spectroscopy revolve around the interaction of light with the molecular vibrations within a sample (1,2). When light interacts with a molecule, it can scatter inelastically, resulting in a shift in the light's wavelength. This shift provides a molecular fingerprint that can be used to identify and quantify various substances within a sample. The review meticulously explains the instrumentation involved, including the laser source, sample illumination system, and the detection system, which together facilitate the precise measurement of the Raman effect (1).

Liu's review emphasizes the practical applications of Raman spectroscopy in food safety. One significant application is in the detection of foodborne pathogens. Raman spectroscopy can quickly and accurately identify bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which are common culprits in foodborne illnesses (1). This rapid identification is crucial for preventing the spread of contamination.

Another critical application discussed is the detection of toxic gases in spoiled foods. Spoilage often leads to the production of harmful gases such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide (1). Raman spectroscopy allows for the noninvasive detection of these gases, providing an early warning system for spoiled food (1). This application is particularly valuable in the food industry, where early detection of spoilage can prevent economic losses and protect consumer health (1).

Additionally, the review highlights the use of Raman spectroscopy in monitoring the translocation of pesticides within plants. Understanding how pesticides move and accumulate in plant tissues is vital for ensuring that food products are free from harmful pesticide residues. Raman spectroscopy offers a sensitive and noninvasive method for tracking these chemicals, aiding in the development of safer agricultural practices.

Despite the significant advancements, the review acknowledges the challenges faced in the field of food safety analysis using Raman spectroscopy. Food samples often have complex compositions, making it difficult to quantify trace target molecules such as hormones in plants. The authors assert that the future trajectory of Raman technology should focus on several key areas (1).

First, there is a need to decrease the expense of handheld Raman spectrometers. Affordable and portable Raman devices will make it easier to perform on-site food safety checks, making Raman detection a prevailing method in the realm of sensing and detection (1). Second, developing sensors with higher sensitivity, better repeatability, and greater stability is crucial. For example, enhancements in surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) probes could significantly improve the detection limits and reliability of Raman spectroscopy (1).

Finally, the integration of Raman spectroscopy with the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies opens up exciting possibilities. This combination could lead to the creation of comprehensive food safety supervision networks that cover the entire agricultural and food industry chain (1).

The review by Liu and his colleagues provided a detailed and accessible guide to conducting and understanding Raman spectroscopy experiments. As technology continues to evolve, Raman spectroscopic techniques will become even better and more equipped to handle the task of ensuring the safety and quality of food.


(1) Li, N.; Hussain, N.; Ding, Z.; et al. Guidelines for Raman Spectroscopy and Imaging Techniques in Food Safety Analysis. Food Safety and Health 2024, 2 (2), 221–237. DOI: 10.1002/fsh3.12040

(2) Boyaci, I. H.; Temiz, H. T.; Genis, H. E.; et al. Dispersive and FT-Raman Spectroscopic Methods in Food Analysis. RSC Adv. 2015, 5, 56606–56624. DOI: 10.1039/C4RA12463D

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