The increasing reliance on instrumental methods for establishing the structure of compounds in food chemistry has often resulted in improper or incomplete characterization of chemical constituents. For example, many examples exist in the literature where compounds have been defined solely by comparison with mass spectrometric databases. Similarly, compounds isolated by preparative chromatography are frequently reported with no attempt being made to establish criteria of purity. The failure to report optical activity data or to determine the stereochemistry of compounds that possess chiral centers is also commonplace. In the context of food chemistry, these deficiencies are a serious problem since the reason to isolate and identify specific constituents is almost always to elucidate their biological activity. Such activity may define, for example, odor and taste, nutritional properties, toxicity, insect attractants or repellents, plant competition, endogenous substances and exogenous contaminants, quality descriptors, etc.
The rationale for this proposal is that without adequate structural identification, reports of biological activity for specific components are suspect or meaningless. It is well understood that biological activity is highly dependent on subtle changes in structure. A classic example is the odor of R-(-)- and S-(+)-carvone, which smell of spearmint and caraway, respectively, because olfactory receptors can distinguish between these enantiomers. If a biological detection system is capable of such discrimination then it is essential that the structural power of chemistry be applied in a way that matches this capability. This project proposes to define the appropriate standards to be applied. The intended outcome is to document standards for compound identification that must be adhered to by authors publishing original research.