U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Agricultural Research Magazine 60(4): April 2012 pp. 6-7; ISSN 0002-161X


Television shows featuring crime scene investigators have been keeping viewers intrigued for years. But the Agricultural Research Service’s intriguing “food composition investigators” are just as innovative at deciphering truth from fiction relating to ingredients of plant-based foods and dietary supplements. The researchers are at the ARS Food Composition and Methods Development Laboratory, which is headed by research leader James Harnly. The laboratory is part of the Beltsville [Maryland] Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC).

They’re using new equipment and a metabolomics approach to discover compounds and to accurately identify ingredients in foods and supplements. They are also looking at chemical composition patterns to find differences between cultivars, growing years, and locations—knowledge important for consumers, farmers, and marketers.