RAFA stands for Recent Advances in Food Analysis and is one of the most important biennial symposia in Europe in the field of food analysis and research.


It was organised for the ninth time by the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague (UCT Prague, Czech Republic) together with Dutch Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR) institute and attracted again approx. 850 scientists from all over the world, presenting their latest research and discussing the challenges in food research in the upcoming years. AGROLAB joined this symposium in 2013, 2017 and 2019. Dr. Frank Mörsberger, Head of Business Development Food & Feed Analysis at AGROLAB was our trend scout in Prague, collecting information on methodological progress and screening for ideas.


The major trends he filtered out can be summarised with the following key words:

Non-targeted analysis, chemometrics, hand-held on-site spectroscopic devices


The topic food fraud prevention and defence ruled many presentations. Innovative smartphone apps in combination with their high resolution cameras and cloud data processing shall enable consumers (!) to verify the authenticity and quality of food in the supermarkets. This sounds like science fiction and there are justifiable concerns about the idea to make each consumer a lab analyst, but we have to consider this as a serious challenge, especially if we take into account the power of Google, Facebook and Co., who may push it.

The smartphone as analytical device is not so far from reality, as today these pocket devices are powerful computers with high-resolution cameras, linked permanently to the internet and they even offer the possibility to link them to miniaturised IR- and even MS-spectrometers. The researchers work already on prototypes and even presented first applications impressively in a special work shop.


Another mega-trend is “Metabolomics”. By high resolution mass spectroscopy (LC Q/TOF- MS) in non-targeted mode it is used to identify typical chemical targets, which can be used as feature molecules for e.g. authenticity checks in routine analysis afterwards measured highly specific and efficient by e.g. LC QQQ MS instruments. The combination of different analytical methods and high speed evaluation of the data used for model-building by chemometrics is the new playground in food analysis. All this information can be made available in cloud-based databases secured against manipulation by block-chain technology. It seems, that within the next 5-10 years food analysis will look much different from today and food fraud might be no more a topic. However, accredited labs and food analysis specialists will not be replaced by the crowd of smartphone-analysts, but their tasks will change.





Author: Dr. Frank Mörsberger