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What is Spectroscopy?

In its broadest sense, spectroscopy is the measurement of the interaction of light with matter.

When light from different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum encounters matter, some wavelengths of light will be absorbed as the molecules vibrate. We use spectroscopy to monitor the reflected/transmitted wavelengths which are then recorded in the form of a spectrum. All matter can interact differently, therefore each spectrum produced is considered a unique “fingerprint”.

For this reason, we use spectroscopy in physical and analytical chemistry to detect, identify and quantify information about atoms and molecules. Because matter interacts differently with light, we can use spectroscopy to test for cheaper bulking agents and/or dyes which have been added to products as a form of food fraud.

Spectroscopy in food.

Spectroscopy has been shown to have uses in the production of, or analysis of, a wide variety of foodstuffs. Spectroscopy is rapid and non-destructive and has applications off-, in-, at- and on-line. Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) and Near-Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy are two common spectroscopic techniques used in food applications. FT-IR and NIR differ in the specific region of the electromagnetic spectrum of interest. They both have a wide range of uses in food including:

Food authentication

NIR and FT-IR are used to identify adulteration in a wide range of food products such as herbs, spices, wine, oils and rice.

Compositional / proximate analysis

NIR and FT-IR are used to determine compositional parameters such as moisture, fat, protein and carbohydrate content in a wide range of feed and foodstuffs.

Investigation of shelf life

NIR and FT-IR have been used to determine shelf life for food products including baked goods and fruits.

Quality control

NIR and FT-IR can be used in quality control to ensure uniformity of material across batches at both raw materials in and goods out.


Multiple forms of spectroscopy are used to analyse for food safety issues including physical, chemical and microbiological hazard detection.

Process control

NIR and FT-IR are used to ensure optimal processing, e.g. fermentation/blending etc, to facilitate the production of high quality and repeatable products.


Various forms of spectroscopy can be used in traceability for example determination of origin.

For further questions about Spectroscopy, please get in touch below.

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