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Application of gas chromatography in food analysis

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Gas chromatography (GC) is used widely in applications involving food analysis. Typical applications pertain to the quantitative and/or qualitative analysis of food composition, natural products, food additives, flavor and aroma components, a variety of transformation products, and contaminants, such as pesticides, fumigants, environmental pollutants, natural toxins, veterinary drugs, and packaging materials. The aim of this article is to give a brief overview of the many uses of GC in food analysis in comparison to high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and to mention state-of-the-art GC techniques used in the major applications. Past and current trends are assessed, and anticipated future trends in GC for food applications are predicted. Among the several new techniques being developed, the authors believe that, in food analysis applications, fast-GC/mass spectrometry (MS) will have the most impact in the next decade. Three approaches to fast-GC/MS include low-pressure GC/MS, GC/time-of-flight (TOF)-MS and GC/supersonic molecular beam (SMB)-MS, which are briefly discussed, and their features are compared.
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Application of gas chromatography in food
analysis
Steven J. Lehotay*
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center,
600 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania 19038, USA
Jana Hajs
ˇlova
´
Institute of Chemical Technology; Faculty of Food and Biochemical Technology; Department of Food
Chemistry and Analysis, Technicka
´3, 166 28 Prague 6, Czech Republic
Gas chromatography (GC) is used widely in appli-
cations involving food analysis. Typical applications
pertain to the quantitative and/or qualitative analy-
sis of food composition, natural products, food
additives, flavor and aroma components, a variety of
transformation products, and contaminants, such as
pesticides, fumigants, environmental pollutants,
natural toxins, veterinary drugs, and packaging
materials. The aim of this article is to give a brief
overview of the many uses of GC in food analysis in
comparison to high-performance liquid chromato-
graphy (HPLC) and to mention state-of-the-art GC
techniques used in the major applications. Past and
current trends are assessed, and anticipated future
trends in GC for food applications are predicted.
Among the several new techniques being developed,
the authors believe that, in food analysis applica-
tions, fast-GC/mass spectrometry (MS) will have the
most impact in the next decade. Three approaches
to fast-GC/MS include low-pressure GC/MS, GC/
time-of-flight (TOF)-MS and GC/supersonic mole-
cular beam (SMB)-MS, which are briefly discussed,
and their features are compared. #2002 Published
by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Chemical residues; Fatty acids; Food analysis; Food
composition; Gas chromatography; High-performance liquid
chromatography; Mass spectrometry; Pesticides
1. Introduction
There is truth to the saying ‘‘We are what we
eat.’’ Of course, most of us do not become a
banana if we eat a banana, but, for good or for
ill, the chemicals that we ingest must be incor-
porated, transformed, and/or excreted by our
bodies. Food is an essential ingredient to life,
and access to food is often the limiting factor in
the size of a given population. There is some
dispute among friends whether we ‘‘eat to live’’
or ‘‘live to eat’’ (and some people ‘‘are dying to
eat’’ or ‘‘eat themselves to death’’), but there is
no denying the importance of food.
The only way to know which chemicals and
how much of them are in food is through chem-
ical analysis. Only then can we know the
nutritional needs for the different chemicals or
their effects on health. Through the ability to
identify and to quantify components in food,
analytical chemistry has played an important
role in human development, and chromato-
graphy, in particular, has been critical for the
separation of many organic constituents in food.
With the commercial introduction of gas
chromatography (GC) 50 years ago, GC has
been used to help determine food composition,
discover our nutritional needs, improve food
quality, and introduce novel foods. Further-
more, GC has been the only adequate approach
to measure many of the organic contaminants
that occur at trace concentrations in complex
0165-9936/02/$ - see front matter #2002 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S0165-9936(02)00805-1
686 trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-215-233-6433; Fax: +1-215-
233-6642. E-mail: slehotay@arserrc.gov
food and environmental samples. GC has been
instrumental in helping humans realize that we
must use caution with agricultural and industrial
chemicals to avoid harming our health, the food
supply, and the ecosystem that we rely upon to
sustain ourselves. The scientific discoveries
made with the help of GC in agricultural and
food sciences have contributed to more plenti-
ful and healthier food, longer and better lives,
and an expanding population of 6 billion people.
Other recent articles have reviewed the analy-
tical chemistry of food analysis [1], and parti-
cular food applications involving GC, such as
carbohydrates and amino acids [2], lipids and
accompanying lipophilic compounds [3,4],
aroma and flavors [5–8], and pesticide residues
[9,10]. The purpose of this article is to mention
the main applications of GC and discuss current
trends in food analysis. We hope to provide
insight into how state-of-the-art techniques may
impact analytical food applications in the future.
There is no space in this article discuss all
advances being made in GC of food applications,
and we have chosen to focus on fast-GC/MS,
which we believe is the developing technology
that will have the most impact in the coming
decade if it can be applied in routine food
applications.
1.1. Needs for food analysis
Most needs for food analysis arise from
nutrition and health concerns, but other reasons
for food analysis include process-control or
quality-assurance purposes, flavor and palat-
ability issues, checking for food adulteration,
identification of origin (pattern recognition), or
‘‘mining’’ the food for natural products that can
be used for a variety of purposes. All analytical
needs for food analysis originate from three
questions:
1. What is the natural composition of the food(s)?
2. What chemicals appear in food as an additive or
byproduct from intentional treatment, unintended
exposure, or spoilage (and how much is there)?
3. What changes occur in the food from natural or
human-induced processes?
We shall refer to the types of analyses that
answer these questions as relating, respectively, to:
1. composition;
2. additives and contaminants; and,
3. transformation products.
These categories are not always clear or even
important, but they are helpful for the purpose
of describing the types of applications in food
analysis that are the subject of this article.
1.2. Composition
Food is composed almost entirely of water,
proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and vitamins and
minerals. Water is often a very large component
of food, but it is generally removed by drying
before compositional analysis is conducted.
Mineral content (as measured by ash after
burning) is generally a very small component of
food, thus a compositional triangle of the remain-
ing major components (lipids, proteins, and car-
bohydrates) can be devised as shown in Fig. 1 [11].
This food-composition triangle can be used to
describe and categorize foods based on their che-
mical content, and the division of the triangle into
nine sections, as shown, can be very helpful to the
chemist in deciding the appropriate analytical
techniques to use in making measurements [9].
Nutritional labeling laws in many countries
require all processed foods to be analyzed and
the reporting of their composition to the con-
sumer. The food processor also has an interest
(and necessity!) to analyze carefully the compo-
sition of its product, thus a great number of
food compositional analyses are conducted
every day. Although GC is rarely used in bulk
compositional assays, it is the primary tool for
analysis of fatty acids, sterols, alcohols, oils,
aroma profiles, and off-flavors, and in other
food-composition applications [12]. GC is also
the method of choice for analysis of any volatile
component in food.
1.3. Additives and contaminants
Many agrochemicals are used to grow the
quantity and quality of food needed to sustain
trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002 687
the human population. Many of the agrochem-
icals are pesticides (e.g. herbicides, insecticides,
fungicides, acaricides, fumigants) that may
appear as residues in the food. Other types of
agrochemicals that may appear as residues in
animal-derived foods are veterinary drugs (e.g.
antibiotics, growth promotants, anthelmintics).
Different types of environmental contaminants
(e.g. polyhalogenated hydrocarbons, polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons, organometallics) can
appear in food through their unintended expo-
sure to the food through the air, soil, or water.
Food may also be contaminated by toxins from
various micro-organisms, such as bacteria or
fungi (e.g. mycotoxins), or natural toxins already
present in the food or that arise from spoilage.
Packaging components (e.g. styrenes, phtha-
lates) can also leach into foods unintentionally.
In addition, chemical preservatives and syn-
thetic antioxidants may be added after harvest
or during processing of the food to extend
storage time or shelf-life of food products.
Other chemical additives (such as dyes, emulsi-
ers, sweeteners, synthetic avor compounds,
and taste enhancers) may be added to the food
to make it appear better to the consumer or to
alter its taste or texture.
All these types of additives and contaminants
are regulated by government agencies world-
wide. Without doubt, more than a million ana-
lyses of food contaminants and additives are
conducted worldwide per year by industry,
government, academic, and contract labora-
tories. GC is the primary tool for the measure-
ment of many chemical contaminants and
additives.
1.4. Transformation products
Transformation products are those chemicals
that may occur in food due to unintended
chemical reactions (e.g. Maillard reactions, auto-
oxidation), industrial processes (e.g. drying,
smoking, thermal processing, irradiation), and/
or other processes (e.g. cooking and spoilage).
The types of chemicals that are categorized as
transformational products (or endogenous con-
taminants arising from transformational pro-
cesses) are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,
heterocyclic amines, urethane, nitrosamines,
Fig. 1. Food-composition triangle divided into nine categories and examples of different foods in each category. Redrawn from
[11] with permission from the author.
688 trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002
chloropropanols, cholesterol oxides, irradiation
products, microbial marker chemicals, and
spoilage components, such as histamine and
carbonyls, that cause rancidity. Some of these
types of chemicals are also regulated, but the
producers have no desire to market a spoiled,
dangerous, or low-quality product. The bulk of
analyses in this category are conducted in food-
quality analytical laboratories by industry or
research investigators.
2. Chromatographic analysis of foods
Typically, GC is useful for analyzing non-
polar and semi-polar, volatile and semi-volatile
chemicals. Without chemical derivatization, GC
is often used for the analysis of sterols, oils, low
chain fatty acids, aroma components and off-
avors, and many contaminants, such as pesti-
cides, industrial pollutants, and certain types of
drugs in foods. HPLC can be useful for separ-
ating all types of organic chemicals independent
of polarity or volatility. But, because of the
advantages of GC, HPLC has been primarily
used for the analysis of polar, thermolabile,
and/or non-volatile chemicals not easily done
by GC. However, chemical derivatization of
polar chemicals, such as amino acids, hydroxy
(poly)carboxylic acids, fatty acids, phenolic
compounds, sugars, vitamins, and many veter-
inary drugs, herbicides, and ‘‘natural’’ chemical
toxins, is also performed to permit their analysis
by GC methods. Only the non-volatile com-
pounds, such as inorganic salts, proteins, poly-
saccharides, nucleic acids, and other large
molecular weight organics, are outside the realm
of GC, except through pyrolysis.
Although GC and HPLC are complementary
techniques, the growth of HPLC in biochemical
applications has led some analysts to use HPLC
primarily, even in applications for which GC is
advantageous. The major instrument manu-
facturers have focused more on HPLC applica-
tions in recent years, leaving smaller companies
to take the lead in commercial advancements in
GC injection, separations and detection.
An estimation and comparison of GC and
HPLC chromatographic techniques used in
food applications can be made fairly easily using
PubMed, a free literature-search database pro-
vided by the US National Institutes of Health
on the internet [13]. PubMed is an extensive
database covering the major analytical and
application journals, but it is designed for the
biomedical researcher and not the analytical
chemist or food scientist, thus the results pre-
sented here are not denitive. However, it
serves the purpose of this article to display
trends.
Fig. 2 gives the number of publications in the
PubMed database in relation to the main food-
application category, chromatographic tech-
nique, and year of the publication. Searches
were limited by the terms, ‘‘GC OR gas chro-
matography’’ or ‘‘HPLC OR high performance
liquid chromatography’’ AND ‘‘food.’’ Thus,
the search missed those papers in which the
citation stated ‘‘high pressure’’ rather than ‘‘high
performance’’ or ‘‘gas liquid chromatography
(GLC)’’ instead of ‘‘gas chromatography (GC).’’
The caption gives the specic search terms used
in each category to prepare Fig. 2.
Currently, the top GC applications for food
analysis (according to the search parameters)
involve: 1) lipids; 2) drugs; 3) pesticides; and,
4) carbohydrates. In the case of HPLC, the top
applications involve: 1) drugs; 2) amino acids/
proteins; 3) carbohydrates; and, 4) lipids.
In the case of GC, the number of publications
in the food-composition category (striped
regions in the Fig. 2) are approximately equal to
the number of papers in the additive/con-
taminant category (shaded regions). But, in the
case of HPLC, the food-composition papers are
predominant. In both cases, applications invol-
ving transformation products barely register in
comparison to the other two main needs for
analysis.
As Fig. 2 shows, HPLC drew even with GC
within 10 years of the commercialization of
HPLC, and, during the 1990s, HPLC surpassed
GC to become the more widely used tool in
publications related to food applications (within
the search parameters). Even for traditional
trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002 689
GC applications, such as separations of lipids,
HPLC has begun to rival GC in terms of
publications.
2.1. Analytical trends
The future of analytical food applications is
impossible to predict with certainty, but it is
helpful in trying to predict the future by study-
ing the past. The major goals in routine appli-
cations of analytical chemistry have always been
the same: to achieve better accuracy, lower
detection limits, and higher selectivity with
faster, easier, and cheaper methods using more
robust, highly versatile, and smaller instruments.
The goals of lower detection limits and greater
selectivity with smaller instruments have devel-
oped into actual trends, and, overall, many
techniques today provide greater sample
throughput with more ease (as a result of
automation), but they are rarely cheaper!
Does this mean that only those techniques
that meet the analytical quality objectives (lower
detection limits with greater selectivity) will sur-
vive (at least until an even better approach
comes along)? Can a faster, cheaper, easier
method with a smaller instrument that gives
lower quality results or lacks automation
become widespread in useful applications?
A test case to answer these questions is solid-
phase microextraction (SPME) [1417]. In
combination with GC, SPME is able to extract
and to detect volatiles in food in an easy, and
relatively fast and cheap approach. In the
decade since its introduction, SPME has been
the subject of nearly 1,000 publications, but
because of complications in quantitation, strong
dependence on matrix, and certain practical
matters, some quality in the results is sacriced
for speed and ease. The strengths of SPME
make it helpful in monitoring transformational
changes or obtaining qualitative information,
Fig. 2. Comparison of GC and HPLC in major food applications over three time periods (11 years each) of scientific literature
abstracted in PubMed [13]. In addition to year of publication, all searches were limited by ‘‘GC OR gas chromatography’’ or
‘‘HPLC or high performance liquid chromatography’’ AND ‘‘food.’’ Specific terms were used in the searches of each category as
follows: 1) pesticides=‘‘pesticide OR herbicide OR insecticide OR fumigant OR fungicide’’; 2) environmental con-
taminants=‘‘dioxin OR PAH OR PCB OR organometallic’’; 3) drugs=‘‘pharmaceutical OR drug OR antibiotic OR hormone’’;
4) toxins=‘‘toxin OR mycotoxin OR alkaloid’’; 5) additives=‘‘additive OR preservative OR sweetener OR emulsifier’’; 6,7,8) terms
as listed were used for nitrosamines, packaging, and irradiation; 9) amino acids=‘‘amino acid OR protein’’; 10) lipids=‘‘fat OR
lipid OR oil OR fatty acid OR sterol OR cholesterol’’; 11) carbohydrates=‘‘carbohydrate OR sugar OR fiber OR fibre’’;
12) vitamins=‘‘vitamin OR nutrient OR mineral’’; and, 13) aroma/flavor=‘‘aroma OR flavor’’.
690 trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002
but as Fig. 2 indicates, such transformational
monitoring is a niche market. It will be inter-
esting to see the status of SPME in 10 years.
2.2. Predictions from the 1980s
In 1982, Tanner [18] attempted to extrapolate
the trends in food analysis for the 1980s. The
major trend in GC at that time was that capillary
columns were replacing packed columns, and it
was an easy prediction to make that this trend
would continue. In retrospect, another easy
prediction was that the use of computers for
instrument control and data processing would
lead to time-saving and automated operation
that would greatly increase sample throughput.
The computer revolution has been essential in
all aspects of science, and nearly all modern
analytical instruments and many chemists could
not function without computers.
However, Tanner also believed that, in food
applications, the trend of lowering detection
limits would not be as important in the 1980s.
The more important factor was the accuracy of
the determinations at the trace levels already
being found. This is sometimes true in food-
composition applications, and one could make
the same argument today that food applications
do not require lower limits of quantitation
(LOQ).
During the last 20 years, the trend to lower
LOQ has continued, and, even though lower
detection limits may not be needed in some
applications per se, lower LOQ enable the
injection of more dilute samples, which is
always a welcome feature, especially in GC (to
reduce coinjection of non-volatiles). Instru-
ments that give lower detection limits can also
reduce the need for clean-up and solvent-eva-
poration steps. Indeed, the last 20 years have
brought the analytical community away from
multi-step, labor-intensive, large-volume, wet-
chemical methods and into simpler, miniatur-
ized approaches, in part because of the lower
LOQ possible with modern instruments.
However, lower instrumental detection limits
have no impact when matrix interferences are
the limiting factor in detection limits for the
method. Thus, greater selectivity (in sample
preparations, analytical separations, and detec-
tion techniques) is always another welcome
feature that helps to provide better results at
lower detection limits. The continuing ability to
achieve lower detection limits with selective
GC/MS(-MS) analysis, for example, has been a
major advancement [19]. In industrialized
nations, in addition to providing conrmatory
results, GC/MS has become a primary GC tool
for some food-analysis laboratories because of
its ability to quantify many analytes at
sufciently low concentrations.
2.3. View from 1990s
If one was to predict the future in 1990, it
may have been easy to make erroneous assess-
ments of the impact of state-of-the-art tech-
niques at the time. For example, the atomic
emission detector (AED) was introduced [20]
with a great deal of marketing and genuine sci-
entic interest in 1990. The advantages related
to the highly selective detection of several ele-
ments and simultaneously made the instrument
potentially very powerful in many GC applica-
tions [21,22]. The reality was that the detection
limits for important elements were not low
enough in comparison to other element-selec-
tive detectors, and matrix interferences in other
elemental channels limited the usefulness of
these channels. The AED could provide key
information to help in the identication of ana-
lytes [23], but MS by itself can provide struc-
tural elucidation and analyte identication. The
cost of AED was much higher than the worth
of the questionable benets it could provide in
most food applications. In 2001, the only com-
mercial manufacturer of the AED announced
the termination of the product.
The 1990s saw the rise and decline of other
‘‘advantageous’’ techniques with severe limi-
tations in most food-analysis applications. A
partial list includes supercritical uid extraction,
supercritical uid chromatography, microwave
assisted extraction, capillary electrophoresis,
automated trace enrichment and dialysis,
enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, molecular
trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002 691
imprinted polymers, and matrix solid-phase
dispersion. Of course, some of these techniques
are continuing in certain analytical and/or non-
analytical applications, but they are not used
widely in food applications for which they were
marketed.
2.4. Current and future trends
Any new approach has to compete in an
uphill struggle with the ‘‘kings of the hill’’ in
analytical chemistry. GC, HPLC, traditional
selective detectors, MS, solid-phase extraction
(SPE), and liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) are the
current leading approaches in analytical food
and agricultural applications. These techniques
have usurped previous major analytical tools,
such as thin-layer chromatography, Soxhlet
extractions, tedious wet chemical methods, and
non-selective GC detectors. The features and
performance of the current leading technologies
are established parameters, and any new tech-
nique will have to match or better them for a
reasonable price. Are there any new technolo-
gies that can join, or even usurp, any of these
‘‘kings of the hill?’’
Advantageous approaches that were intro-
duced for bench-top operations in the last 15
years with strong applicability to food analysis
include the major advances in HPLC/MS (and
MS
n
) and GC/MS
n
>, and other instrumental
devices, such as programmable temperature
vaporization (PTV), pulsed ame photometric
detection (PFPD), halogen specic detection
(XSD), and pressurized liquid extraction (PLE),
which is also known as accelerated solvent
extraction (ASE). Each of these techniques has
been on the market for at least six years, and
they provide benets in breadth of scope,
selectivity and/or detectability that are likely to
make them useful for years to come.
Other potentially useful fairly new commercial
devices for GC analysis of foods include large-
volume injection (LVI), direct sample introduc-
tion (DSI) (commercially known as the
ChromatoProbe), and resistively heated capil-
laries. These techniques are not yet established
and it is not clear what their fate will be.
In the case of MS, its combination of qualita-
tive and quantitative features gives it the
advantages needed to become the biggest ‘‘king
of the hill’’, and some day, selective GC detec-
tors will possibly be relegated to niche applica-
tions. The detectors with greater selectivity and/or
sensitivity that complement MS, such as PFPD
and XSD are likely to remain, and there is
always a need for lower cost and reliable detec-
tors that meet the needs of simpler analyses
[24]. But the future of GC (and LC) detection
and applications is tied with MS. The key ques-
tion for MS will continue to be: how much extra
capital expense will the laboratory pay to gain
the benets of MS?
3. Faster GC/MS
Increasing the speed of analysis has always
been an important goal for GC separations. The
time of GC separations can be decreased in a
number of ways: 1) shorten the column; 2)
increase carrier-gas ow; 3) reduce column-lm
thickness; 4) reduce carrier-gas viscosity; 5)
increase column diameter; and/or, 6) heat the
column more quickly. The trade-off for
increased speed however is reduced sample
capacity, higher detection limits, and/or worse
separation efciency. How much of these fac-
tors is the analyst willing to sacrice for speed?
Not much, apparently, because separation times
in typical routine applications have been much
the same for decades (2050 min). Perhaps as
more laboratories begin to use instruments with
higher inlet-pressure limits, faster oven-tem-
perature program rates, electronic pressure
control, and faster electronics for detection,
fast-GC with micro-bore columns will become
more widely used, but the inherent trade-off will
remain.
In practice, the GC conditions should be
designed to give the shortest analysis time while
still providing the necessary selectivity (i.e.
separation of both analyte-analyte and matrix-
analyte). The use of element-selective detectors
may improve matrix-analyte selectivity, but, in
that case, analyte-analyte selectivity must be
692 trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002
addressed solely by the separation. MS detection
usually improves both types of selectivity (an
exception includes dioxin and/or PCB analysis
in which some congeners give similar mass
spectra). Thus, GC/MS reduces the reliance on
the GC separation and can lead to faster analysis
times for a given list of analytes and matrices.
Chromatographers seem to have a dogma that
each analyte in a separation should be baseline
resolved, but MS provides an orthogonal degree
of selectivity that is seldom used to its full
potential in routine applications. The reliance on
selective ion monitoring (SIM) and MS-MS, in
which sequential segments are used in the ana-
lysis, also tends to extend chromatographic
separations [25].
Full-scan mode is needed truly to meet the
full potential of fast-GC/MS. Software pro-
grams, such as the automated mass deconvolu-
tion and identication system (AMDIS), which
is available free from the US National Institute
of Standards and Technology on the internet
[26], have been developed to utilize the
orthogonal nature of GC and MS separations to
provide automatically chromatographic peaks
with background-subtracted mass spectra
despite an incomplete separation of a complex
mixture [27].
There are at least three approaches to fast-
GC/MS: 1) use of micro-bore columns with
time-of-ight (TOF)-MS [2830]; 2) use of low-
pressure (LP)-GC/MS to aid separations at
increased ow rate [3133]; and, 3) use of
supersonic molecular beam (SMB)-MS (also
known as Supersonic GC/MS), which can
accept increased ow rates and short analytical
columns [3436]. The use of faster temperature
programming in GC/MS with or without a
shorter column is also always an option.
Although fast-GC/MS is desirable in a variety
of applications mentioned previously, these are
newly developed approaches that have not been
evaluated widely. One application for which
each of these three approaches has been tested
similarly is pesticide-residue analysis. As a result,
the comparisons shown in Figs. 35 between
Fig. 3. Fast-GC/TOF-MS analysis of pesticides. I) alpha-BHC, 2) gamma-BHC, 3) beta-BHC, 4) delta-BHC, 5) heptachlor,
6) aldrin, 7) isodrin, 8) heptachlor epoxide, 9) gamma-chlordane, 10) alpha-chlordane, 11) p,p-DDE, 12) endosulfan I,
13) dieldrin, 14) p,p-DDD, 15) endosulfan II, 16) p,p-DDT, 17) endrin aldehyde, 18) endosulfan sulfate, 19) methoxychlor,
20) endrin ketone. Original gure from [29] provided by J. Cochran.
trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002 693
the different approaches are focused this appli-
cation. The reader is directed to the literature for
descriptions of other food applications [3739].
3.1. GC/TOF-MS
An advantage of the micro-bore GC/TOF-
MS method versus the other approaches is that
separation efciency need not be compromised
for speed of analysis. Modern quadrupole
instruments are capable of sufciently fast scan
rates for fast-GCMS [40], but quadrupole
instruments cannot match the potential of TOF
for this purpose. Rapid deconvolution of spec-
tra (‘‘scanrate’’) with TOF-MS makes it the only
MS approach to achieve several data points
across a narrow peak in full scan operation.
Fig. 3 gives an example of rapid GC/TOF-MS
for the analysis of pesticides in a solution.
However, the injection of complex extracts
deteriorates the performance of micro-bore
columns quickly, and, since sample capacity is
reduced by a cubed factor in relation to column
diameter [41], increased LOQ and decreased
ruggedness result, so such narrow columns can
rarely be used in real-life applications.
TOF-MS can also give wide spectral mass
range and/or exceptional mass resolution (typi-
cally at the expense of speed, however). More-
over, GC/TOF-MS techniques do not
necessarily need to use short, micro-bore
columns to achieve short analysis times. Short,
wider columns, ballistic or resistive heating of
columns, comprehensive 2-dimensional GC,
and/or low pressure may become more suitable
approaches to meet food-application needs in
GC/TOF-MS in the future.
3.2. LP-GC/MS
LP-GC/MS, commercially known as Rapid-
MS. is an interesting approach to speed the
Fig. 4. Chromatogram of pesticides in toluene solution in conventional GC-MS and LP-GC/MS (5 ng injected).
1) methamidophos, 2) dichlorvos, 3) acephate, 4) dimethoate, 5) lindane, 6) carbaryl, 7) heptachlor, 8) pirimiphos-methyl,
9) methiocarb, 10) chlorpyrifos, 11) captan, 12) thiabendazole, 13) procymidone, 14) endosulfan I, 15) endosulfan II,
16) endosulfan sulfate, 17) propargite, 18) phosalone, 19) cis-permethrin, 20) trans-permethrin, 21) deltamethrin. Used from
[32] with permission of the publisher.
694 trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002
analysis by which a relatively short (10 m) mega-
bore (0.53 mm i.d.) column is used as the
analytical column. The vacuum from the MS
extends into the column, which leads to higher
ow rate and unique separation properties. A
restriction capillary (0.10.25 mm i.d. of appro-
priate length) is placed at the inlet end to pro-
vide positive inlet pressure and to allow normal
GC injection methods. Advantages of LP-GC/
MS include: 1) fast separations are achieved; 2)
no alterations to current instruments are nee-
ded; 3) sample capacities and injection volumes
are increased with mega-bore columns; 4) peak
widths are similar to conventional separations to
permit normal detection methods; 5) peak
heights are increased and LOQ can be lower
(depending on matrix interferences); 6) peak
shapes of relatively polar analytes are improved;
and, 7) thermal degradation of thermally-labile
analytes is reduced.
Fig. 4 shows how a three-fold gain in speed
was made in the analysis of 21 representative
pesticides using LP-GC/MS versus traditional
GC/MS. Larger injection volume could be
made in LP-GC/MS because of better focusing
of the gaseous solvent at the higher head pres-
sure and larger column capacity, so overall gains
in sensitivity were achieved. However, reduced
separation efciency occurs with LP-GC/MS
and ruggedness of the approach with repeated
injections was no better than traditional methods
with a narrow-bore analytical column.
3.3. GC/SMB-MS
GC/MS with current commercial instruments
have a practical 2 mL/min ow limitation
because of MS-instrument designs. GC/SMB-
MS is a very promising technique and instru-
ment that overcomes this ow rate limitation
because SMB-MS requires a high gas-ow rate
at the SMB interface. However, only a single
prototype GC/SMB-MS instrument exists at
this time, and the approach is not commercially
available.
The advantages of GC/SMB-MS include: 1)
the selectivity of the MS detection in electron-
impact ionization is increased because an
enhanced molecular ion occurs for most mole-
cules at the low temperatures of SMB, so losses
of selectivity in the GC separation can be made
up by increased selectivity in the MS detection;
2) the use of very high gas-ow rates enables
GC analysis of both thermally labile and non-
volatile chemicals, thereby extending the scope
of the GC/SMB-MS approach to many analytes
currently done by HPLC; 3) the SMB-MS
approach is compatible with any column
dimension and injection technique; 4) reduced
column bleed and matrix interference occurs
because of the lower temperatures and
enhanced molecular ions; and, 5) better peak
shapes occur because tailing effects in MS are
eliminated. Fig. 5 gives an example in the
separation of diverse pesticides using GC/SMB-
MS.
Fig. 5. Fast-GC/SMB-MS analysis of the indicated 13 pes-
ticides in methanol (37 ng injected). Trace B is a zoom of
the upper trace A in order to demonstrate the symmetric
tailing-free peak shapes. A 6 m capillary column with 0.2
mm i.d., 0.33 mm DB-5ms lm was used with 10 mL/min
He ow rate. Used from [34] with permission of the
publisher.
trends in analytical chemistry, vol. 21, nos. 9+10, 2002 695
4. Conclusions
After 50 years of commercial GC, the tech-
nology and its applications have matured, but
we have not reached an end of the possibilities
made available by GC or the ever-expanding
analytical needs it can address. There is always a
need for higher quality and more practical GC
methods in existing applications, and much
remains to be discovered about the importance
of chemicals on health and the environment.
As a result of the current emphasis by funding
organizations and industry in biological and
biochemical investigations, it may seem that
HPLC is going to supplant most GC applica-
tions, but usually the reality is that ‘‘when GC
can be used in a separation, GC should be
used.’’ No other current technique can match its
combination of separation efciency, instrument
performance and reliability, range of detectors,
analytical scope, understanding of the theory
and practice, means to control separation, ease
of use, diversity of features, reasonable cost, and
the number of analysts experienced in the
approach.
In the near future, GC/MS is expected to
supplant many current methods for chemical
contaminants using selective GC detectors, and
GC/MS will be especially useful if it can be
combined with fast-GC separations. The
increased selectivity of MS reduces the need to
achieve baseline-resolved separations as with
selective detectors, so faster separations of
lower chromatographic resolution are still use-
ful. Three fast-GC/MS techniques that may
become useful for this purpose are LP-GC/MS,
GC/TOF-MS, and GC/SMB-MS, and it will be
interesting to see which of these approaches will
become the most widely used in food
applications in the future.
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... as chromatography (GC) is used widely in applications involving food analysis. Typical applications pertain to the quantitative and/or qualitative analysis of food composition, natural products, food additives, flavor and aroma components, a variety of transformation products, and contaminants, such as pesticides, fumigants, environmental pollutants, natural toxins, veterinary drugs, and packaging materials [3]. And particular food applications involving GC, such as carbohydrates and amino acids [4]. ...
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