Peppery temper of TM Pripravka pepper

During the crisis, the purchasing power of consumers is significantly reduced, they are trying to save more, they are more careful in choosing products, pay attention to the price and often switch to buying cheaper products. In such circumstances, manufacturers are forced to take actions to leave the price at the same level, giving consumers the opportunity to continue to buy the product. But few consumers think about how the manufacturer manages to keep a low price for a long time. Some manufacturers change the product formulation by replacing its components with cheaper ones, other manufacturers simply reduce the product weight, and more conscious ones indicate such changes on the package, while others do not do it.

There are three most common types of product falsification:

  • falsification of quality
  • quantitative falsification
  • information falsification

Falsification of quality is a full or partial replacement of one product with another product, additives can be both food and non-food origin. As far as spices and kitchen herbs concerned, they are subject to falsification in the ground fractions. The introduced «amorphous» additives that do not have any specific taste and smell can be present in significant amounts (up to 50 %) without causing a significant effect on the organoleptic quality indexes of such the similar product.

Quantitative falsification is related to a significant deviation of the product parameters (mass, volume, at a simple level of underweight) exceeding the maximum permissible standard of deviations.

Informative falsification is a deception of the consumer by providing an inaccurate or distorted information about the product. This kind of falsification is done by misrepresenting information contained in the product labeling, proving an incomplete information to be indicated on the packaging and an inaccurate information in advertising and information materials. For example, ground mustard cake is added to the ground pepper, and this information is not reflected in the product composition on the pack.

The common feature of spices is their herby smell and burning taste. They improve the flavor profile of food and facilitates its digestion. Many of them have medicinal qualities, including antibacterial properties. The main «contributors» to taste and aroma of kitchen herbs are essential oils, glycosides and alkaloids. One of the most popular spices is black pepper. It is obtained from green unripe fruits of the Piper nigrum L. that is a liana with a length of up to 15 meters. The native land of the plant is South India, it is cultivated in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Ceylon, the Caribbean and South America. In order to clean and prepare fruits for drying, they are quickly scalded in hot water and then dried in the sun or in special chambers. That is why the fruits darken and wrinkle.

The quality of ground pepper depends on the quality of pepper. There are several varieties of pepper, depending on the degree of purification from foreign impurities (rods, twigs, lightweight unripe grains) and density of the core. Density of pepper allows allows to assess the degree of pepper ripeness – the higher the level of density, the higher the degree of ripeness (accumulation of extractives that include alkaloids (piperine), flavonoids, vitamins, etc. ensuring the taste, aroma, pungency of pepper).

Black ground pepper should have a dark gray color of different shades (according to GOST 29050-91). An increase in the proportion of gray-black «earthy» shade indicates a decrease in quality. The fragrance should be characteristic, the taste is to be pungent. And, of course, there should be no foreign flavors and smells in it.

 Although black pepper is a common spice, it is expensive, so producers often try to reduce its price in many ways. The pack often contains an insufficient amount of the spice or the spent (spent corns of black pepper after extraction of essential oils, fruit stalks, light-weight corns of pepper with low content of essential oils), mustard cake, and buckwheat husk are added in the spice.

Laboratory research

The Test company examined our pepper comprehensively. Physico-chemical indicators were evaluated in the laboratory according to the methods of analysis determined in accordance with GOST 28875-90. At this stage, four indicators of black pepper were determined – content of essential oils, content of ash mass fraction, humidity, net weight.

The content of essential oils indicate the «saturation» and identity of the product. It is essential oils that give a characteristic aroma to pepper and dishes with it. The standard requires at least 0.8 % of essential oils to be present in black pepper. If the index is below 0.8 %, it means that pepper of lower grades was taken with a density of less than 450 g/l and lower was ground or that pepper was diluted with spent, mustard cake or buckwheat husk. Only two samples contained a sufficient amount of essential oils, see details in the tables 1, 2, and 3).

The mass fraction of ash determines the presence of impurities of vegetable origin in pepper. The higher this indicator, the more likely that producers reduced the cost of the product by adding cheaper impurities (spent, mustard cake, buckwheat husk). According to the standards, the mass fraction of ash should not exceed 6 %.

Humidity is an indicator that influence the preservation of the product. The mass fraction of moisture should not exceed 12 %, otherwise the product starts to deteriorate (the product grows musty, a stale, musty smell and lumpiness appears, etc.). This indicator is within the standard for all tested samples. But the moisture index can be viewed in a different way. There is a tendency that the lower the moisture index of pepper within a normal range of 12 %, the lower the content of extractive substances that include alkaloids, flavonoids, vitamins that ensure

formation of aroma and pungency of pepper. Extractive substances can be fat-soluble (essential oils) and water-soluble (flavoring substances).

As far as the mass is concerned, the underweight is the simplest way of saving for producers. According to GOST 28750-90, an underweight of 4.5 % is allowed for packages of spices with a mass of 10 g to 25 g, an allowable possible deviation makes 4 % for packages of 25 g to 50 g (inclusive). For the most part, the deviation indicated on the label corresponds to the requirements of GOST. In two samples, manufacturers added more than 5 g as compared to the weight indicated on the package.

When buying cheaper pepper, consumers try to save money, but in fact, they cannot gain any benefit by doing so. If pepper is more expensive and qualitative, just a pinch of it is required to add taste and flavor to food, while it is necessary to add much more amount of diluted pepper. The results of the test were disappointing, almost all tested samples demonstrated parameters that were below the standard. Even the leaders of the Ukrainian market that have always been famous for their quality and reasonable price have significant deviations from the standard in one or several indicators. The best of the tested samples was a sample of PripravkaTM – all the indicators were within the normal range or even higher.

A detailed article on the results of the testing can be found on the website of Research Center of Independent Consumer Examinations «Test».

15 June 2017