Organic production benefits from fair competition and sustained consumer confidence. The latter can only be assured by paper trailing and verification assessments. Traditional analytical strategies for guaranteeing quality and uncovering adulteration have relied on the determination of the amount of a marker compound or compounds in a material and a subsequent comparison of the value(s) obtained with those established for equivalent material. Since it is unlikely to find a unique marker that allows discrimination between organic and conventional produce, selective fingerprinting (profiling) combined with chemometrics is a more promising approach. In this study, carotenoid High Performance Liquid Chromatography–Diode Array Detection profiling combined with k-nearest neighbour classification chemometrics was used to predict the production system (organic vs. non-organic) of chicken eggs. A proof-of-concept set (training set for the model) was composed of eggs from 24 organic farms, 12 free range, and 12 barn farms in the Netherlands. The identities of organic, free range, and barn eggs were predicted with success rates of 100%, 100%, and 84%, respectively. The identity of eggs determined using an additional market test set with eggs from 12 organic, 12 free range, and 12 barn farms originating from the Netherlands and New Zealand resulted in correct classifications for 35 of the 36 samples. The results of this study indicate that this fingerprint approach is a promising tool for analytical verification of the production system of organic eggs.
- laying hens