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A new method for measuring and reporting on cocoa flavanol content recommended to become an AOAC Final Action Official Method of Analysis℠ – a first in the flavanol world

A new method for measuring
By: Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Ph.D., VP Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, Applied Science & Nutrition, Mars Edge

Our group  of scientists at Mars Edge is committed to cocoa flavanol research. Fundamental to our research is the development of analytical methods for cocoa flavanols. Increased attention on cocoa flavanols’ health benefits has underscored the need to accurately analyze and quantify the amount of cocoa flavanols across a variety of products, including cocoa powders and supplements.

First Action

In 2020, our research team developed a new and improved way to measure and quantify cocoa flavanols more accurately. The method – known as  AOAC Official Method of Analysis 2020.05 – uses the first standardized reference material for cocoa flavanol extract, developed in collaboration with  the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. The method received First Action recognition by AOAC, an independent body that sets standards for methods of food analysis. The AOAC’s standards are recognized by global regulatory agencies – including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and are the recognized methods used in the labeling consumer goods.

First Action meant that that the method passed the first critical set of criteria to move towards Final Action – the last step to becoming an official method of analysis.

Evaluation by multiple labs

To continue to advance towards recognition as an official method, its performance has been evaluated over the past two years via a multi-lab validation (MLV) process and end-user feedback collected. The MLV involved ten labs made up of academic, commercial and industry labs, with the project co-led by scientists at Mars and Eurofins. The results, recently published in the Journal of AOAC International, validated the repeatability and reproducibility of AOAC Official Method of Analysis 2020.05 across a wide range of cocoa-based products.

Move to Final Action

The method was recently reviewed by an expert panel of the AOAC and recommended to become a Final Action method. Once a Final Action method, it will be included in AOAC's Official Methods of Analysis SM compendium and will become the recognized method for measuring and reporting cocoa flavanol content.

What does this mean for nutrition research and the food industry?  

This will be the first time in AOAC's history that a method for flavanol analysis is certified as an Official Final Action Method by AOAC, providing a valuable tool for all interested in the health potential of these bioactives.

As scientists and consumers seek to understand more about the benefits of flavanols, including those in cocoa, methods like 2020.05 pave the way for consistency in reporting, consistency that is critical to scientists and consumers alike.

Ultimately, with this new validated standard method in place, the scientific community and industry will be able to measure cocoa flavanol content in a consistent and precise way, creating a uniform language for communicating with each other and with the public. For consumers, this means more consistent package labels that enable easier, more informed decisions.

The work on this method is another example of our research team’s dedication to unlocking the potential of cocoa flavanols to improve human health. And is a great example of the power of cross-sector collaborations to drive advancements in science.