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Forensic Analysis of Potentially Adulterated French Fries

Challenge

A police officer and his wife purchased French fries from a fast food restaurant. The officer recognized the person preparing the fries as someone he had arrested previously. The wife later noted that the French fries “smelled and tasted funny.” The police department impounded cooked and uncooked French fries, used and unused cooking oil and a cleaning agent located near the deep fryer and sent them to Battelle for analysis.

Solution

Researchers at Battelle analyzed the suspect cooking oil and French fries, and control samples. They used sophisticated analytical and statistical methods to determine whether or not the suspect and control samples where chemically equivalent and if any unknown compounds were present in the samples.

Outcome

Data generated for the suspect cooking oil and French fries were identical to the corresponding data generated for the control matrices. There was no evidence that the suspect samples had been adulterated with the cleaning agent. Battelle was able to detect trace quantities of a different chemical in the cooked potatoes. This turned out to be a harmless chemical commonly used to inhibit potato eye development.