Agave syrup analysis

Agave syrups as a vegan sweetener and natural alternative to household sugar have experienced a large increase in recent years in many countries, including Germany. 

These syrups, mostly produced in Mexico, are made from the juice of the blue agave (Agave tequilana) and/or Agave salmiana. For further use, the juice is thickened, whereby the main ingredient inulin breaks down into the simple sugar fructose. 

The Mexican standard NOM-003-SAGARPA-2016 regulates which physicochemical properties an authentic agave syrup must meet. FoodQS offers comprehensive analytics regarding adulteration with foreign sugars in addition to the parameters specified by the standard.”

What does the standard regulate?

The following parameters (excerpt from NOM-003-SAGARPA-2016) already provide a good initial overview:

In addition, other parameters can of course be determined (e.g. pH, maltose, ethanol…), which allow a statement regarding quality or even authenticity.

In addition, microbiological parameters, such as total plate count, yeast and mold fungi and salmonella, are also regulated in the NOM-003-SAGARPA-2016 standard.

With regard to residues, pesticides may play a role. Furthermore, chlorate and quaternary ammonium compounds (QAV), which are used in the disinfection of drinking water, are important test parameters.

NMR analysis


This new technology also shows its advantages in the analysis of agave syrups. Quality parameters as well as authenticity parameters can be determined quickly with one method:

Section of a test report with NMR-relevant quality parameters:

Section of an NMR spectrum: Agave syrups with different additions of corn syrup.

Isotope analysis

Isotope analysis, which can be used for authenticity analysis of agave syrups (CAM-plant), is divided into 2 methods:

1. Detection of an addition with a syrup from C3- plants, such as rice or sugar beet (Art. 37027):

  • Here, the 13C content (δ13C) of the total sugars is determined.
  • The δ13C- value of an authentic agave syrup is naturally in the range:
    δ13C Syrup: -10.8‰ to -13.5‰.
  • Deviations from this range are evaluated as non-authentic according to the current status.

Additions of C3- sugar products can thus be detected from about 12% (depending on the product), as the δ13C- value then becomes more negative.

2. Detection of an additive with a syrup from C4- plants such as corn or sugar cane (Art.: 37001):

  • Here, the 13C- value of fructose and glucose is determined and then the difference of both results is formed.
  • Authentic agave syrup naturally has the following difference:
    δ13C fructose – δ13C glucose: 2.0‰ to -1.1‰.
  • Deviations from this range are evaluated as non-authentic according to the current status.

FoodQS additionally offers a combination of both methods (Art. 922) to quickly and comprehensively detect C3 and C4 sugar additions in agave syrups.

Both methods (NMR and isotope analysis) are thus excellently suited to obtain a quick, cost-effective overview of the quality parameters and authenticity of an agave syrup.

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