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AB SCIEX software targets improved food testing results

By Joe Whitworth+

17-Jun-2014
Last updated on 17-Jun-2014 at 12:10 GMT

QTRAP 4500 LC-MS/MS system
QTRAP 4500 LC-MS/MS system

AB SCIEX has launched the MasterView Food Testing Workflow for QTRAP mass spectrometry systems to give laboratories improved confidence and reliability in results when screening, identifying and quantifying targeted chemical contaminants in food samples.

The firm claims it can increase productivity for labs that need to analyze samples for different compounds to satisfy the demand for testing and monitoring.

AB SCIEX said the most common application will be for analysis of chemical contaminants such as pesticides, veterinary drug residues, and natural toxins (such as mycotoxins) in food crops. 

Rapid screening

With the workflow, a food testing lab monitoring import and export products could rapidly screen their samples for hundreds of chemical compounds, with results in hours from the time the sample arrives, the firm said.

The data processing for hundreds of contaminants would normally take hours but with the MasterView for QTRAP workflow it takes minutes to process for hundreds of compounds in a batch of samples, said Lauryn Bailey, global marketing manager, food and environmental markets at AB SCIEX.

Food samples are very complex, and even with the high selectivity of MRM [Multiple Reaction Monitoring] ion ratios, matrix components present in food can often wreak havoc on even the most specific analysis – very often producing skewed or questionable results,” she told FoodQualityNews.com. 

“Overcoming the impact of the food matrix on results is one of the top problem statements we hear from food testing labs all over the world. 

“We have many examples from our lab and our customers’ labs where a compound was incorrectly identified in a food sample using MRM ion ratios and a library search result using full MS/MS information was used to verify the finding as either positive or negative.”

Reduce false negatives and false positives

It is an expansion to AB SCIEX’s MasterView Software workflow for TripleTOF technology, which simplifies identification of unexpected contaminants using high resolution mass spectrometry.

When combined with QTRAP or TripleTOF technology, the software helps food testing labs reduce false positive and false negative findings to improve confidence in their results.

The software application has built-in automation that turns analytical data into answers for food screening before an unanticipated incident occurs.

QTRAP technology allows scientists to compare their acquired data to compound libraries and boost confidence in compound identification than Multiple Reaction Monitoring (MRM) ratio analysis using a triple quadrupole mass spectrometry system.

Improved confidence in results from every injection will reduce the need for reinjections, and with the data processing workflow it increases throughput for testing laboratories, said AB SCIEX.

Bailey said many testing labs are making the transition from quantitation of chemical compounds in samples using MRM ion ratios to performing screening workflows – primarily to increase throughput and enable more effective risk monitoring. 

“Creating an effective screening workflow for QTRAP systems enables labs to screen, identify, and quantify compounds efficiently and effectively on both nominal mass (QTRAP) and accurate mass (TripleTOF) systems for highest level of productivity and flexibility,” she said.

“With MRM ratio analysis, the scientist utilizes two points of criteria to verify the presence of a compound.  When using the QTRAP workflow, the mass spec not only detects the two characteristic fragments they would detect by MRM ratio analysis, but they are also able to get the full fragmentation pattern for that compound. 

“This is in essence like detecting four or more distinct fragments – almost like the compound fingerprint.  It provides multiple added points of criteria to use to verify and confirm the identity of the peak detected, providing much more confidence.”

Data management

Lab personnel had to deal with large amounts of data, manual data review and find a technologist familiar with mass spectrometry which contributed to slower adoption of the technology for routine food contaminant testing, said the firm.

Screening for hundreds of known targeted compounds in many food samples can be done in five mouse clicks, with data processing and results compiling in seconds.

The software also features colored symbols for data review, to identify positive findings quickly in large batches of samples.

When combined with TripleTOF mass LC-MS/MS technology for unknown target surveillance, MasterView Software can enable the elimination of irrelevant peaks (such as benign matrix components or healthy compounds typically found in food).

It can flag potential hazards and provide tools to assist in unknown investigation, to accurately confirm the identity of unknown peaks.

Bailey said that unknown compounds can be detected and identified quickly and reliably so that follow-up actions can be implemented before the product makes it to the consumer.

When a sample is tested and a compound is found, the most logical step to follow is to identify how much of it is there.  This could be done from the same data set (if reference standards were available and run in the sample batch) or could be done from a follow-up analysis. 

“At that point, the lab would report the result and, if in violation of the country’s import/export regulated levels for that compound, action would be taken (product refused or destroyed, shipping halted, etc.). “

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