Assessing direct analysis in real-time-mass spectrometry (DART®-MS) for the rapid identification of additives in food packaging

Authors: Luke Ackerman, Gregory Noonan, Timothy Begley
Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A: Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure & Risk Assessment 2009, Sep, 11, 26(12), 1611-1618


The ambient ionization technique direct analysis in real time (DART®) was characterized and evaluated for the screening of food packaging for the presence of packaging additives using a benchtop mass spectrometer (MS). Approximate optimum conditions were determined for 13 common food-packaging additives, including plasticizers, anti-oxidants, colorants, grease-proofers, and ultraviolet light stabilizers. Method sensitivity and linearity were evaluated using solutions and characterized polymer samples. Additionally, the response of a model additive (di-ethyl-hexyl-phthalate) was examined across a range of sample positions, DART®, and MS conditions (temperature, voltage and helium flow). Under optimal conditions, molecular ion (M+H+) was the major ion for most additives. Additive responses were highly sensitive to sample and DART® source orientation, as well as to DART® flow rates, temperatures, and MS inlet voltages, respectively. DART®-MS response was neither consistently linear nor quantitative in this setting, and sensitivity varied by additive. All additives studied were rapidly identified in multiple food-packaging materials by DART®-MS/MS, suggesting this technique can be used to screen food packaging rapidly. However, method sensitivity and quantitation requires further study and improvement.