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Saffron Fakes and Quality

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and it is because of this fact that saffron has been duplicated. Nowadays, there are a lot of fake saffron spices in the market. It is because of these fakes that the International Organization for Standardization has established a standard for original saffron.

Spanish Standard

  • Coupe - Crocin > 190
  • La Mancha - Crocin 180-190
  • Rio - Crocin 150-180
  • Standard - Crocin 145-150
  • Sierra - Crocin < 110

ISO-Standard (3632)

  • Category I - Crocin > 190
  • Category II - Crocin 150-190
  • Category III - Crocin 110-190
  • Category IV - Crocin 80-110

The ISO has set a minimum standard value of 20-70 for picrocrocin and safranal. One of the techniques that fraudsters do to fabricate saffron is by adding a little turmeric, yellow dye, chili or dried leaves and anything else that they can think of.

A saffron expert will be able to distinguish real saffron from the fake. This is because of the unique smell that it exudes. Also, it would be easy to distinguish saffron by its brownish, deep red color. If that is not proof, you can either drop a few thread into water or you can taste it. If you place the saffron threads in water, they should swell and turn the water into yellow. If you will taste it, then it is supposed to have a bitter and spicy taste.

If you are still not sure whether you are dealing with true saffron then make a baking soda test. Place saffron into a mixture of soda and water. If the water turns yellow, then it is authentic saffron. If it turns reddish or brownish, then it is a fake.

Origin of Counterfeit

Spain is known to produce only 1.5 metric tons of saffron per year. However, there are a lot of counterfeit saffron spices and the figures depicting saffron sold under the name 'Spanish Saffron' is 7 metric tons.

There are a lot of Iranian companies that are located on the Iberian Peninsula. What these counterfeit companies would do to make their Iranian Saffron a product of Spain is by packing them in Spain. This will give them the legitimacy to label their products 'Producto de Espana". This is also the case in terms of Spanish or Italian Olive Oil.

The saffron used in counterfeiting is an Iranian saffron and it costs ½ less than Spanish Saffron. Apart from the price difference, gourmets, cooks and food critics hold a high opinion on Spanish Saffron.

Bio Quality Counterfeit Saffron

There is another type of saffron which is being counterfeited. This type of saffron is known as 'Organic Saffron'. With the various discussions and debates whether or not Iran has a type of organic saffron, the answer is unknown at this point. Organic saffron originates from Greece but there are a few online shops offering organic saffron from Iran and Morocco. Whilst these shops just might offer authentic organic saffron, proceed with caution. Do not buy any saffron that does not have any European seal and certificates.