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Use of ammonium formate in QuEChERS for high-throughput analysis of pesticides in food by fast, low-pressure gas chromatography and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry

González-Curbelo, Miguel Ángel, Lehotay, Steven J., Hernández-Borges, Javier, Rodríguez-Delgado, Miguel Ángel
Journal of Chromatography A 2014 v.1358 pp. 75-84
acetates, acetonitrile, ammonium chloride, apples, buffers, detection limit, food analysis, food contamination, food matrix, foods, formic acid, gas chromatography, lemons, lettuce, liquid chromatography, magnesium sulfate, monitoring, pesticide residues, pesticides, quantitative analysis, salting, solid phase extraction, tandem mass spectrometry, wheat
The “quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, and safe” (QuEChERS) approach to sample preparation is widely applied in pesticide residue analysis, but the use of magnesium sulfate for salting out in the method is not ideal for mass spectrometry. In this study we developed and evaluated three new different versions of the QuEChERS method using more volatile salts (ammonium chloride and ammonium formate and acetate buffers) to induce phase separation and extraction of 43 representative pesticide analytes of different classes. Fast low-pressure gas chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LPGC-MS/MS) and liquid chromatography (LC)-MS/MS were used for analysis. The QuEChERS AOAC Official Method 2007.01 was also tested for comparison purposes. Of the studied methods, formate buffering using 7.5 g of ammonium formate and 15 mL of 5% (v/v) formic acid in acetonitrile for the extraction of 15 g of sample (5 g for wheat grain) provided the best performance and practical considerations. Method validation was carried out with and without the use of dispersive solid-phase extraction for cleanup, and no significant differences were observed for the majority of pesticides. The method was demonstrated in quantitative analysis for GC- and LC-amenable pesticides in 4 representative food matrices (i.e. apple, lemon, lettuce, and wheat grain). With the typical exceptions of certain pH-dependent and labile pesticides, 90-110% recoveries and <10% RSD were obtained. Detection limits were mostly <5 ng/g, which met the general need to determine pesticide concentrations as low as 10 ng/g for monitoring purposes in food applications.