Multitasking Food Analysis Using Ion Chromatography (IC)

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Multitasking Food Analysis Using Ion Chromatography (IC)

Team TFS
Team TFS

As a young child, I was often scolded for multitasking too many things. Is multitasking a good thing? I’ll let you decide. Just remember that there are many tasks and only one of you! Can you realistically do a good job performing so many tasks at the same time?


Multitasking is often necessary in a workplace with critical timelines, so productivity is crucial. In many food laboratories, meeting timelines is imperative to getting food onto the shelves. Labs must follow strict regulations before food can be approved for human consumption.Multitasking with IC.jpg


Testing for pesticides


Pesticides come in many forms. Ionic polar pesticides are particularly challenging. Using ion chromatography with mass spectrometry, we can solve that challenge on one instrument set up with anionic and cationic consumables. It does not require derivatization, which could negatively impact accuracy and reproducibility, and provides a simplified method.


Analyzing with electrochemical detection


We can now analyze carbohydrates without derivatization with a gold electrode using the same ion exchange with high-performance anion exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection (HPAE-PAD). By switching the gold electrode to silver and using a different column set, we can detect sulfite in food and beverages that can cause allergic reactions. This analysis shows one technology with multiple detection possibilities for various applications.


Analyzing salts


Not only do we find carbohydrate contents listed on food and beverage labeling, we also can find salt content and other ionic requirements to sustain health and vitality. Food labeling helps us understand what we consume. It includes many inorganic cations such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc. This analysis uses a simple conductivity setup with an ion chromatography instrument which can also analysis inorganic anions by switching consumables.


Testing for stability


We may have established what’s in our food and beverage from the labeling, but what about its stability? Many food testing laboratories will test not only what is in the contents, but also its storage stability in its containers and packaging.


For instance, biogenic amines play a critical role in human and animal physiological functions, but also are related to food spoilage and safety. It is regulated to avoid large intakes into our body, as it can cause hypotension, nausea, increased cardiac output, and more. The analysis is often challenging since most biogenic amines lack chromophoric or fluorophoric groups.


With ion chromatography (IC), those are not required. To ensure we capture all of them, we can use multiple detections, such as UV-Vis with integrated pulsed amperometric detection (IPAD) and maybe conductivity with mass spectrometry. Food degradation and spoilage also apply to the formation of certain organic acids.


Analyzing toxic species


Being of Asian descent, I am particularly interested in arsenic in rice, whereby as it grows, it draws nutrients from the water and soil. It also draws up pollutants into the rice, such as arsenic species. Arsenic compounds can exist in organic and inorganic forms with different toxicities. The inorganic species are far more toxic; therefore, they need to be separated to assess the potential health risk. Using the versatility of ion chromatography hyphenated to ICP-MS, we can resolve and speciate the arsenic species in the rice. It provides me with great satisfaction that my food is safe.




Now that I have demonstrated the many detections and applications that ion chromatography can achieve, can this one technique really perform all those food and beverage testing tasks? I personally think you can — as I explained to my parents over 45 years ago — especially if I can automate and use software to help me.


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