Spices are parts of a plants that have been powdered into small pieces; they are widely used in cooking and some are known to have medicinal benefits. In some countries, plants used for spices are considered economic crops. For example, Saffron, per ounce, is worth more than gold! However, where there is potential for economic gain there is also potential for exploitation.
Particularly with spices, as they are distributed in their processed form, it can be very difficult to prove and identify their original species and whether they are the genuine product.
Recent developments combining DNA barcoding and High Resolution Melting Analysis (HRM) has been used by scientists to determine the authenticity of several spices belonging to the Zingiberaceae family (ginger family) .
Only one of seven of the shops which bought spice products contained the species on their label, the remainder were either incorrect or had contamination of other products in them. Being able to detect substitution, adulteration or contamination of products is a vital part of preventing fraud and using molecular techniques, like Bar-HRM, has great potential for achieving this.
Similar results have also been found for tested oregano, a herb which is typically used in Greek dishes and sprinkled on pizzas.
In a study carried out by Forbrugerrådet Tænk, 4 of 10 oregano samples contain significantly high traces of other plant material. 3 of the samples only contains 50% of oregano while the fourth contains 70%. The remaining contents was from dried leaves from other plants such as olive leaves, myrtle and leaves from the solo tree. These leaves were presumably used in attempt to save money.