Plant food supplements are gaining popularity, resulting in a broader spectrum of available products and an increased consumption. Next to the problem of adulteration of these products with synthetic drugs the presence of regulated or toxic plants is an important issue, especially when the products are purchased from irregular sources. This paper focusses on this problem by using specific chromatographic fingerprints for five targeted plants and chemometric classification techniques in order to extract the important information from the fingerprints and determine the presence of the targeted plants in plant food supplements in an objective way.
Two approaches were followed: (1) a multiclass model, (2) 2-class model for each of the targeted plants separately. For both approaches good classification models were obtained, especially when using SIMCA and PLS-DA. For each model, misclassification rates for the external test set of maximum one sample could be obtained. The models were applied to five real samples resulting in the identification of the correct plants, confirmed by mass spectrometry.
Therefore chromatographic fingerprinting combined with chemometric modelling can be considered interesting to make a more objective decision on whether a regulated plant is present in a plant food supplement or not, especially when no mass spectrometry equipment is available. The results suggest also that the use of a battery of 2-class models to screen for several plants is the approach to be preferred.