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The Real Thing?

June 14, 2011

The Column

The Column, The Column-06-06-2011, Volume 6, Issue 10

A process has been developed that uses combinational peptide ligand libraries to determine whether Cola drinks have been flavoured using natural vegetable extracts or only with artificial chemical flavourings.

A process has been developed that uses combinational peptide ligand libraries to determine whether Cola drinks have been flavoured using natural vegetable extracts or only with artificial chemical flavourings.

Original Cola recipes used nuts from the Kola tree, which are native to West Africa and act as a source of caffeine in the drinks. Most modern soft drink manufacturers artificially replicate the flavour of kola nuts in their recipes; but there are some that claim to use the natural ingredient and charge a premium for it.

Using combinational peptide ligand libraries, researchers investigated the proteome of a Cola drink to see if these plant extracts could be detected.1 By treating large beverage volumes (1 L) and performing the capture with the libraries at very acidic pH values (pH 2.2) under conditions that mimicked reverse-phase adsorption, the study found traces at the 15–20 kDa range. These were analysed using nano-LC–MS–MS and were identified as plant proteins. At the same time, Coca Cola products, which do not claim to contain kola extracts, were found not to contain the proteins.

The study concluded that the technique could be used to ascertain the presence of proteins from plant extracts and suggests that it could give the beverages a quality mark and certificate of authenticity.

1. A. D’Amato et al., J. Proteome Res., 10, 2684–2686 (2011).

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.