Original Paper

Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 405, Issue 4, pp 1237-1243

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

A concept study on non-targeted screening for chemical contaminants in food using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry in combination with a metabolomics approach

  • Erik TengstrandAffiliated withDepartment of Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University
  • , Johan RosénAffiliated withNational Food Administration
  • , Karl-Erik HellenäsAffiliated withNational Food Administration
  • , K. Magnus ÅbergAffiliated withDepartment of Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University Email author 


A generic method to screen for new or unexpected contaminants at ppm levels in food has been developed. The method comprises an acidic acetonitrile extraction, detection with ultra-high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled to electrospray ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry and statistical evaluation using a metabolomics approach comparing suspected contaminated food with uncontaminated foods. The method was tested for 26 model contaminants from 100 μg/g down to 0.4 μg/g in three brands of fresh orange juice. Blinded statistical evaluation revealed signals from all added contaminants detectable by liquid chromatography–electrospray ionisation using positive ionisation mode, while only two false-positive signals were reported. The method is primarily intended to be used for investigation of food samples suspected to be contaminated with unknown substances. Additionally it could be used to continuously monitor for appearance of new food contaminants as a complement to the specific targeted analysis that is today’s foundation of food safety analysis.


Chemometrics/statistics Foods/beverages HPLC Mass spectrometry/ICP-MS