Potential of SERS for rapid detection of melamine and cyanuric acid extracted from milk
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Melamine, a nitrogen-rich chemical, was implicated in the pet and human food recalls in 2007 and in the global food safety scares in 2008 involving milk and other milk-derived products. In this study, we investigated the feasibility of using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) coupled with SERS-active gold substrates for rapid detection of trace amounts of melamine and its analogue (that is, cyanuric acid) in liquid milk. Raman signals of tested samples were significantly enhanced by SERS. The identification limit for SERS using gold substrate can reach 2 ppm of melamine in liquid milk. Partial least squares (PLS) models were established for the quantification of melamine in liquid milk by SERS: R = 0.90, RMSEP = 1.48 × 10−5. Our results demonstrate that rapid detection of melamine in milk can be achieved by SERS; while detection of cyanuric acid in milk remains a challenging task due to rapid enol-keto tautomerism of cyanuric acid. The SERS method is faster and simpler than other traditional methods, and requires minimum sample preparation. These results demonstrate that SERS could be used to detect food contaminants such as melamine in foods and food ingredients quickly and accurately.