Investigating a taint in savoury sauce

An established savoury sauce manufacturer asked RSSL to provide a rapid analytical response to a potentially serious chemical contamination issue.


The Challenge


Our client had received several consumer complaints about an unpleasant taste and odour in its savoury sauce product. Given that can originate from a variety of external sources – ranging from shipping containers and storage facilities to cleaning fluids – we set two clear analytical goals.


First, quickly determine whether the tainted product posed a risk to public health. Second, identify the root cause of the taint to prevent further incidents.


Expert problem solving


Our investigation began with an informal sensory analysis which described the taint as a strong petroleum-like odour. 


Based on this profile, we used a solid phase microextraction chromatography linked mass spectrometry technique (SPME GC-MS) to compare the tainted product with a control sample. This analysis enabled us to identify the components attributed to the taint as aliphatic hydrocarbons.


We then turned to the question of where this specific taint could have come from. By tracing the product through the manufacturing process and supply chain, we discovered that the product was stored under containers of white spirit in the retailer’s warehouse. This suggested that there had been a transfer of white spirit to the savoury sauce product, which we subsequently confirmed through further analysis.


Using this information to quantify the amount of white spirit in the tainted product and carry out a toxicology risk assessment, we concluded that the risk to public health was minimal.

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The Outcome


As a member of RSSL’s Emergency Response Service (ERS), our client benefited from a rapid turnaround time. Our analytical findings meant they had the information they needed to avoid a product recall and could work with the retailer to safeguard consumer safety and prevent a reoccurrence.

We couldn’t think of a better partner than RSSL. Their robust analytical support was pivotal to resolving this contamination issue and ensuring it doesn’t happen again.

Food manufacturer




How RSSL can support with taint and off-flavour investigations


RSSL can provide both analytical and consultancy services to support with the identification and resolution of a chemical contamination incident.  With extensive experience and expertise in taints and off-flavour investigations, our multidisciplinary team of experts use specialist techniques to determine which compounds are responsible for a taint, we will then work with you to carry out further taint analysis or take action to determine the root cause to prevent this occurring again. Click through to find out more or contact us below.

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