Development of Non-Targeted Mass Spectrometry Method for Distinguishing Spelt and Wheat

Foods. 2022 Dec 27;12(1):141. doi: 10.3390/foods12010141.


Food fraud, even when not in the news, is ubiquitous and demands the development of innovative strategies to combat it. A new non-targeted method (NTM) for distinguishing spelt and wheat is described, which aids in food fraud detection and authenticity testing. A highly resolved fingerprint in the form of spectra is obtained for several cultivars of spelt and wheat using liquid chromatography coupled high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS). Convolutional neural network (CNN) models are built using a nested cross validation (NCV) approach by appropriately training them using a calibration set comprising duplicate measurements of eleven cultivars of wheat and spelt, each. The results reveal that the CNNs automatically learn patterns and representations to best discriminate tested samples into spelt or wheat. This is further investigated using an external validation set comprising artificially mixed spectra, samples for processed goods (spelt bread and flour), eleven untypical spelt, and six old wheat cultivars. These cultivars were not part of model building. We introduce a metric called the D score to quantitatively evaluate and compare the classification decisions. Our results demonstrate that NTMs based on NCV and CNNs trained using appropriately chosen spectral data can be reliable enough to be used on a wider range of cultivars and their mixes.

Keywords: LC-MS; convolutional neural networks; fingerprinting; food fraud; machine learning; non-targeted methods; spelt; wheat.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.