Food testing labs work endlessly to test our food supply for hazardous chemicals and contaminants to ensure human and animal
safety. For a routine food testing laboratory, this typically means they must prepare hundreds of food samples daily for analysis,
analyze those samples for hundreds of contaminants, and do it all with a fast turnaround of results. In recent years, innovations
in microflow liquid chromatography (LC) coupled to mass spectrometry has created opportunities for laboratories to do more
with less — more sensitivity, higher throughput, and more robustness in their analyses but in less time, with lower cost,
and with less hazardous solvent consumption. For a high-throughput food testing laboratory, microflow LC coupled to mass spectrometry
is an innovation that can push routine food testing analysis to the next level. Here, we describe how a food testing laboratory
can transition routine high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) methods to microflow LC and show performance results
that showcase improved sensitivity, throughput, and robustness of analysis, with the added benefits of reduced solvent waste
and overall analysis costs.
Food is a vital part of life, and many food scientists and chemists work hard each day to test food products and ingredients
for safety and quality. From pesticides to antibiotics, allergens to natural toxins, and so many others, the number of contaminants
that can often be found in foods, ingredients, and assorted consumer products continues to increase.
As the demand to test more products for more types of contaminants increases, the workload on food testing laboratories increases
as a direct result. With this increase, food testing scientists are continuously looking for new methods and technologies
to improve their workflows. From more efficient and effective ways to extract contaminants and remove matrix components in
sample preparation, to faster and higher quality chromatography as well as more sensitive and selective detection approaches,
food testing scientists are in constant pursuit to test more samples with faster turnaround of results with the highest level
of accuracy and reliability.
As an added pressure, modern analytical equipment can sometimes require an abundance of resources, including consumable resources
such as solvents, chemicals, and disposable equipment as well as personnel resources such as instrument run management and
maintenance. These resource requirements can also put a strain on food testing laboratories, which endlessly strive to keep
their cost per analysis low and their efficiency to produce results high.
Fortunately, advances in modern analytical instrumentation can relieve some of these strains on routine food testing laboratories.
From better sample preparation approaches to new liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS-MS) technology,
food testers now have better accessibility to techniques that will save them time, save them money, and give them better results
than ever before.
LC has been a preferred methodology for food testing laboratories for many years, allowing ideal separation, identification,
and detection of contaminants in complex food samples. Routine food testing laboratories run samples around the clock, which
results in considerable resource consumption, excessive expenses in consumable costs, and considerable production of organic
New innovations in LC technology, such as microflow LC, present laboratories with a more efficient alternative to higher-flow
LC methods. Microflow LC requires significantly less solvent usage and less analytical sample consumption, without sacrificing
any of the performance features of normal-flow LC, making it substantially more cost and time efficient for a high-throughput
testing laboratory while still providing the best analytical results. Furthermore, the reduced solvent and chemical consumption
has a reduced environmental impact, making microflow LC a leaner, "greener" choice for environmentally conscious laboratories.
In this article, we present a research study that shows how routine food testing methods, such as pesticide analysis in spices,
can be transferred from traditional LC–MS-MS to microflow LC–MS-MS to save laboratories time, money, and resources without
sacrificing analytical performance and quality of results.