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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 20 (2015) pp 227-228

Detection of Coumarin in Artificially Adulterated Vanilla Bean Extracts in a Forensic Science Laboratory

Osbaldo Garcia, Chelsae Keeney and Sulekha Coticone*

Department of Chemistry and Physics, Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft Myers, FL 33965,
Received June 15, 2015. Accepted August 5, 2015.

Published: 28 August 2015

Abstract. Tonka bean extracts, containing coumarin, is frequently used to adulterate vanilla bean extracts due to its similarity in fragrance, taste and appearance. When coumarin is converted to dicoumarol, it exhibits anticoagulant properties, increasing the risk of bleeding. Coumarin has been shown to cause liver damage in laboratory animals. Due to these health risks, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instated a ban on the adulteration of vanilla extract with coumarin in 1954. This experiment involves the detection of coumarin in vanilla extracts spiked with coumarin using a spot test, Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) co-spotting and structure characterization using low field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). The combination of three analytical techniques exposes students to real world applications of forensics.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; analytical chemistry; forensic; food science; active learning; vanilla extracts; coumarin; adulteratation

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (48 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Instructor notes, student handout, example spot test, cospot TLC and NMR are supplied. (215 KB)

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