Editorial Article: Webinar Highlights - How to Screen and Identify Unexpected & Unwanted Compounds in Food with the SweEt Multiresidue Method

Get the most from your mass spectrometry workflow for food contaminant analyses

29 May 2018

Optimizing mass spectrometry workflows to improve productivity in the laboratory can be a huge challenge for lab managers. Complex matrices add another layer of complexity, as detecting and identifying analytes of interest is a challenge regardless of industry. 

Susanne Ekroth, Analytical Chemist at the National Food Agency Department of Chemistry, Division of Science, Livsmedelsverket. 

In the food and beverage industry, more and more new foods are being developed and deployed around the world. Contaminants not in target lists can appear in products via environmental or manufacturing contamination. This makes it essential that food safety labs stay vigilant and screen for new, unexpected and unwanted compounds.

In this webinar, Susanne Ekroth from the Swedish National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket), addresses the challenge of finding an efficient workflow for both targeted and non-targeted compounds and demonstrates a next-generation workflow for more efficient control of unexpected and unwanted compounds in food: the Swedish Ethyl acetate multiresidue method (SweEt), coupled with a high-resolution mass spectrometer.

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Q: Why did you choose this specific MS mode for your multiresidue method?

SE: Working with full scan, in combination with vDIA, is an extremely easy and straightforward workflow that also offers retrospective analysis. We can look at all the raw data and reprocess it later. It’s an easy workflow that gives good sensitivity at low levels. It suits our application very well.

Q: Do you have experience with ddMS2?

SE: Yes, I do. ddMS2 is a very comparable mode to the vDIA. It’s a little more of a complicated workflow, you can say it’s similar to targeted analysis for LC-MS/MS. It also has advantages, such as being able to optimize the individual collision energies for all the analytes, which is not really possible with the vDIA. Overall, the vDIA and ddMS2 are very comparable. But the vDIA is just a more straightforward and easy workflow.

Q: In your opinion can you replace analyses with LC-MS/MS with Thermo Scientific™ Q Exactive™ hybrid quadrupole-Orbitrap™ MS and LC-Q TOF?

SE: Yes, you can. Replacing them is the easy part. To achieve good results, however, you really need to put in some effort to optimize both the MS part as well as the LC part of your instrument. After doing that, the Q Exactive™ is completely comparable to a good triple quadrupole mass spectrometer for sure.

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Q: What do you think about the future? Will we have more to worry about in food?

SE: In some ways, yes, we will have more to worry about. When you think about climate change, as the climate becomes warmer, we will have more diseases. We will use more pesticides as a result. In those cases, you really need to investigate how the method is likely to look in the future. What kind of commodities will we need to analyze.

Q: Have you tried ion chromatography (IC) coupled to the Q Exactive™ Focus Hybrid Quadrupole-Orbitrap™ Mass Spectrometer, and what advantage would this have over liquid chromatography?

SE:  No not yet, but a colleague of mine has shown really interesting results from ion chromatography of fruit and vegetable samples. Using IC for the most polar pesticides like glyphosate and similar analytes shows high sensitivity at very low levels. These polar pesticides are very common. The possibility of coupling IC to a high-resolution instrument to screen for other analytes would be very valuable. Glyphosate is the most commonly found pesticide in cereals. It will no longer be authorized for use in a couple of years from now. With this kind of system, you will be able to screen for this kind of compound. We also have to think about what kind of compound will come on the market to replace glyphosate. Will it be more toxic than the unauthorized analyte? What will be in your sample that will be difficult to analyze? IC is a very interesting technique I’d like to see more information about.

Q: Have you tried to use vDIA for discovery mode?

SE: Yes, I have. The thing is, you can use vDIA for discovery mode, but it does not produce any spectral information. In order to achieve those spectra, you need to use the MS mode ddMS2. You either use the vDIA as it is, or you use discovery mode on ddMS2. You have to distinguish between the two modes. 

Parts II-V of this webinar series will be released throughout 2018, so keep an eye on SelectScience for exciting new topics coming soon.

Learn more about screening for contaminants in food with the SweEt multiresidue method: Watch this webinar on demand >>