Should we be worried about our health because our produce contains pesticides? The answer very much depends on where in the world you live–or where your food comes from.
When it comes to protecting people from harmful pesticide residues in food, standards around the world are anything but consistent. While the European public has a reasonable level of confidence that their food is below the maximum limits for pesticide residues, it’s a different story for consumers in the United States.
The recent annual EU report on pesticide residues in food found that 95.9% of 88,247 samples from 28 EU states were free of pesticide residues, or contained traces that were below the legally permitted maximum levels. Jump across the Atlantic and America is lagging behind! The nation is using a shocking number of pesticides (1 in 10) that contain ingredients either banned or not approved in not only Europe but also in China and Brazil.
Unfortunately, the difference in pesticide use is typical of many countries around the world, where the guidelines continue to vary considerably. But it’s important to remember that our food supply is global and that the US is the largest exporter of food products worldwide. Regardless of where the produce is grown, there are global standards to consider. While regulatory processes catch up, testing remains the most effective way to protect our food supply from hundreds of pesticides used around the world.
Screening Food for Pesticides to Meet Global Standards
Food testing laboratories have traditionally relied on gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC–MS) for rapid pesticide detection in large numbers of samples. However, the regulated pesticide list is expanding while the highest permitted levels of pesticide residues in food and feed are becoming even more restrictive. For example, the EU legislation sets a general default maximum residue level (MRL) of 0.01 mg/kg when a pesticide is not specifically mentioned.
What this means is that, to be on the safe side, laboratories need tools that allow them to analyze thousands of substances at low concentrations, in a variety of food and feed samples, such as fruit, vegetables, and animal byproducts. This is where liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) methods serve as an alternative to GC-MS for comprehensive screening.
LC-MS/MS offers food researchers:
- Sensitivity to detect a wider range of pesticides, with lower limits of detection (LOD), within in a single run
- Selectivity to discern the elements of a complex mixture without interference from other components in its matrix. Using multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) to detect analyte-specific product ions, you can gain yet another level of selectivity.
- Specificity for highly accurate identification of pesticide residues through a selection of specific multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) transitions for each compound. In simpler teams, selectively filter samples to reveal the analyte-specific product ions you’re seeking.
Unfortunately, mass spectrometry systems are typically perceived as expensive and complex–but we’re busting the myth! The SCIEX Triple Quad™ 3500 System provides labs with robust and reliable mass spectrometry technology at an affordable price to efficiently and effectively screen for pesticides.
A Robust and Reliable Pesticide Screening Method
To demonstrate the capabilities of the Triple Quad 3500 System in pesticide screening, our team developed a method that uses simple, generic extraction procedures and MRM mode to screen food samples for hundreds of pesticides in a single injection.
See how we met a detection limit of 2 ng/mL or lower for these pesticides, with good linearity across 4 orders of magnitude. Download the SCIEX Triple Quad 3500 compendium by filling out the form on your right.