PAH’s – Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

CHRONECT Workstation PAK

Automated analysis of PAHs in food by means of LC-LC-GC-MS/MS coupling and the imPAHct method.

The CHRONECT Workstation PAK and the newly developed imPAHct method (innovative multidimensional PAH remediation technology) from Axel Semrau® ensure a high degree of automation.

Due to the required sensitivity and complex matrices, the determination of PAHs is a major challenge for the analysis. HPLC with fluorescence detection or GC-MS is used as a method of analysis. Sample preparation is often extensive and time consuming. Conventional analysis methods use HPLC with fluorescence detection or GC-MS. In both cases, sample preparation is often very extensive and complex. Recent requirements for laboratories include a reduction of the processing time of the samples (Turn-Around-Time) and an increase in the throughput of the samples. However, losses within the analytical parameters are not desirable, such as sensitivity, precision and accuracy. For these reasons, highly automated analysis procedures are required.

Background of PAHs

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed by partial combustion and pyrolysis. They enter the environment through fumes bound to dust particles or mineral oil residues. PAHs contaminate food either from the environment (e.g. dust particles on broad-leaved vegetables) or by roasting and smoking.

Laboratories regularly analyse PAHs. The reason for this is the partly very high carcinogenicity of the group of substances and their wide distribution. European directives set limit values that vary according to the food stuff. For the marker substance benzo[a]pyrene, the value is between 1 and 6 μg/kg, while the total limit for PAH4 (the term summarises benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[a]anthracene, chrysene and benzo[b]fluoranthene) is 1 to 35 μg/kg. The analysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is a major analytical challenge because of the variety of food matrices and the detection limits required by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Axel Semrau® CHRONECT LC-GC technology has been used in routine food analysis for many years. It is the ideal basis for the solution presented here. The analysis of PAHs is carried out by means of an LC-LC-LC-GC-MS/MS system and with the imPAHct method. To measure PAHs, a simple but fast extraction of the sample is performed. The extract is quickly treated manually and then transferred to the CHRONECT Workstation PAH. Here, the extract is purified by a two-step LC separation (LC-LC Clean-Up) and then analyzed via GC-MS. Edible oils can be easily measured.

Using this intelligent matrix management, it is possible to determine the PAHs prescribed by EFSA fully automatically. Depending on the detector, detection limits are reached that are even a factor of 100 lower than the required European values for infant formulae. The detection limits depend on the detector.

Axel Semrau® LC-GC solutions are pre-installed and tested in their application laboratory and are delivered ready to use. The installation includes a Site Acceptance Test and a briefing that allows the user to get started immediately. This ensures the fastest possible start of routine measurements.

Advantages of the CHRONECT workstation PAK and the imPAHct method

  • LOD 1/100 of the limit value for infant formulae (e.g. benzo[a]pyrene)
  • LOD for all EFSA PAHs between 0,01 and 0,01 – 0,02 μg/kg with Bruker EVOQ GC-TQ GC-TQ-TQ
  • LOQ for all EFSA PAHs < 0,06 μg/kg with Bruker EVOQ GC-TQ
  • repeatability < 10 % for the whole method
  • analysis time: 45 min
  • no consumables required due to LC-LC Clean-Up
  • Longer maintenance intervals thanks to Clean-Up technology
  • applies to cosmetics and all foodstuffs
  • high throughput
  • high degree of automation
  • investment security
  • universally applicable to all foodstuffs
  • short training period due to the prepared method


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