analysis of low levels of dioxins in foodDid you know that more than 90% of human exposure to highly toxic dioxins is through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish? (Link & source WHO page on dioxins.) A little about dioxins in case you are not familiar with these chemicals. Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds, including polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and some dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which are formed by waste incineation, forest fires, and backyard trash burning.These compounds are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as they are highly toxic and bioaccumulate in food chains, mainly in the fatty tissues of animals. Exposure to dioxins is known to cause developmental problems, damage to the immune system, dysregulation of hormone levels and cancer.

Here, I am pleased to present a simple, reliable and robust GC-MS/MS method for detecting and confirming low levels of dioxins in food and feed samples that has been developed in collaboration with scientists from the European Union Reference Laboratory for Dioxins and PCBs in Feed and Food.

By the way, previously, we had covered the European Union legislative approval to use GC-MS/MS as a reliable tool for the analysis of maximum levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) in Application Note 10380, Meeting the European Commission Performance Criteria for the Use of Triple Quadrupole GC-MS/MS as a Confirmatory Method for PCDD/Fs in Food and Feed Samples, (downloadable PDF). Our scientists worked closely with national reference labs in the European Union to support the development of the new regulation, known as Commission Regulation (EU) No. 709/2014, which permits the use of gas chromatograph-triple stage quadrupole mass spectrometers (GC-MS/MS) for confirmation. Prior to this, EU regulations permitted the use of GC-MS/MS only to screen samples and required gas chromatograph high resolution mass spectrometry (GC-HRMS) for confirmatory methods.

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The new method, described in Application Note 10406, Validation of GC-MS/MS for Detection and Confirmation of Low-Level Dioxins, (downloadable PDF), uses a triple quadrupole GC-MS/MS system (Thermo Scientific TSQ 8000 Evo triple quadrupole GC-MS/MS instrument coupled with a Thermo Scientific TRACE 1310 GC) equipped with an autosampler (Thermo Scientific TriPlus RSH autosampler). Results were compared to GC-HRMS data and deviation of the total dioxin content (WHO-PCDD/F-TEQ-ub) was within ±2% for all samples analyzed. The method illustrates the excellent selectivity and sensitivity of this GC-MS/MS system for low levels of dioxins, even in complex matrices.

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  • You might also be interested in Chromatography Solution Online Center which features many useful and complimentary chromatography tools which can help speed up your analysis. The site is updated on a monthly basis; therefore, do check out the Archives section to see what was previously featured.

If you have questions on the method or the system, do enter them in the Comments box below; our experts look forward to hearing from you.