, Volume 405, Issue 4, pp 1237-1243,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 01 Nov 2012

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


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.