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Scientists Approve New Test for Cocoa and Chocolate Products

Revised and expanded analytical test for measuring flavanols and procyanidins adopted as new Official Method of Analysis by AOAC International food science experts

by AOAC International
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AOAC International today (Aug. 18) announced the approval of a new scientific method for measuring flavanols and procyanidins in cocoa powders, cocoa liquors, chocolates, and cocoa extracts.

Flavanols and procyanidins are bioactive compounds found in many foods and drinks including apples, cranberries, and teas, but which are particularly abundant in cocoa beans. There is growing interest in these compounds, as a strong body of scientific evidence now shows they could have beneficial impacts on human health, including potential cardiovascular and cognitive benefits.

"As interest in the health potential of flavanols has grown, so has the need for accurate analysis of their properties," said Eurofins director of scientific affairs Dr. Hong You, a member of the Expert Review Panel that approved the method. "This method addresses a critical gap in the analysis of these phytonutrients in cocoa-based products, enabling consistency in how these compounds are measured and reported."

The new method, employing hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography, was developed and submitted by scientists at Mars Edge. It is a major improvement of the existing Official Method of Analysis, SM 2012.24, validated for a wide range of cocoa-based products, including milk chocolates, dark chocolates, cocoa drink mixes, and cocoa extract dietary supplements, spanning concentration of 0.5-500 mg/g.

"Our work builds on previous methodology to decrease experimental time more than five-fold and increase intermediate precision more than two-fold," said Ugo Bussy, principal scientist at Mars Edge. "This opens the door for consistent product labeling, ultimately empowering consumers by providing them reliable information to compare products, which is particularly important given the wide variability in flavanol content that exists in the marketplace today."

In an important advance, the method incorporates the first standardized reference material for cocoa flavanol extract, developed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

While cocoa flavanols are naturally abundant in cocoa, these compounds are often destroyed in normal chocolate harvesting and processing. This new method employs advanced separation and sample clean-up technology provided by Waters Corporation, which will enable more accurate measurement of products that typically contain low and inconsistent amounts of cocoa-flavanols, like milk chocolate.

Mars Edge is a new segment of Mars, Incorporated, dedicated to human health and wellness through targeted nutrition. Mars Edge is currently working, through a public-private partnership, with the US National Institutes of Health and Harvard University Medical School in the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS)—the largest clinical dietary study investigating the impact of nutritional status, lifestyle choices, and the intake of cocoa flavanols and multivitamins on health and the risks of heart disease and cancer. Study outcomes are expected in late 2021.

The method was evaluated against AOAC Standard Method Performance Requirement (SMPR®) 2012.001, which details criteria needed for determination of flavanols in foods and beverages.

Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International are microbiological and chemical analysis procedures that have undergone rigorous formal validation by AOAC International. After a two-year tracking period, "First Action" methods are reviewed for approval as "Final Action" methods, which are published in the Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International, a globally recognized standards resource for analytical scientists.

"Flavanol and Procyanidin (by Degree of Polymerization 1-7) Content of Chocolate, Cocoa Liquors, Powder(s), and Cocoa Flavanol Extracts" was approved during AOAC's April 2020 Analytical Methods Week and will be published in the Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International.

- This press release was originally published on the AOAC International website