There is a growing global concern over the composition of what we eat and drink. Consumers are demanding answers and scientists now routinely analyze food and drinks to verify much more than product safety and shelf life. Among their top concerns? Verifying product authenticity, nutritional content, and making sure that what we eat and drink actually contains what the label claims.
“Product safety is an absolute imperative for food and drink companies,” says Julian South, Head of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Campden BRI, the world’s largest member-based food research organization. “In addition to chemical and microbiological analysis, we offer expertise in the investigation of the physical properties of food and drink, identifying any contaminants, authenticity, and verifying that products are what the labels say they are.”
The High and Low Of Quantification
Since the acceptable limits of adulterants and contaminants in food and drinks are constantly moving towards ever-smaller amounts, Campden BRI needed to run high- and low-level quantification of food samples separately. This required preparing samples at two different dilutions, a small dilution to analyze for the low-level contaminants and a high dilution to analyze for nutrients that exist at very high levels. In addition to having to perform two analyses, using traditional inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to run food and drink samples at small dilution sometimes caused deposits from dissolved solids to build up on the instrument’s interface and ion optics. Over time, those deposits can jeopardize the instrument’s results, stability, and even its life span. “They also lead to costly cleanups between sample runs and instrument downtime,” South says. No more.
EDR Changes Everything
To help its members stay compliant with ever-changing requirements on toxic metal and nutrient content in foods and beverages, Campden BRI invested in the new PerkinElmer’s NexION® ICP-MS with Enhanced Dynamic Range (EDR). The NexION 350’s three tandem quadrupoles significantly extend the instrument’s ultratrace detection limits. The “power” of the design comes from the ability to use the second quadrupole as an ion guide, a collision/reaction cell, or both. That allows Campden BRI scientists to characterize and quantify both low-level, food safety contaminants, such as lead (Pb), arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd) , and mercury (Hg), and macro-level nutritional elements, including calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), and sodium (Na), simultaneously.
“The NexION has enabled us to provide a fast and accurate service for elemental analysis for our member food companies,” South says. “The ability to remove interferences and the wide dynamic range has ensured we can cover all elements in all matrices. These are particularly challenging in some types of food samples so the backup from the PerkinElmer team has been very helpful.”
South also says PerkinElmer’s NexION 350 additionally helped Campden BRI to earn the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) for its upgraded metals analysis service.
David Bellis, Analyst at Campden BRI, adds that an additional benefit of the NexION’s wide range is its ability to attenuate the higher concentration elements that allows the instrument’s detector to see fewer ions, which extends its life.
Expanding Campden BRI’s Capabilities
“There is no question that the NexION 350 has increased our operational efficiency,” South says. “Its ability to run two samples at once on a single instrument has increased the laboratory’s productivity, lowered our costs, and increased our field of operations to include accredited heavy metals analysis that will help food companies ensure that their products meet the regulatory requirements of the countries in which they sell.”
Another growing area of expertise for Campden BRI and its use of the NexION is food and beverage authenticity. Using a multi-element suite for detection purposes, Campden BRI scientists are leveraging the instrument’s unique capabilities to help fingerprint foods and beverages to verify their place of origin and authenticity. “We already have a huge amount of reference data on cereal, and we expect that will only grow, thanks to the NexION,” South says.
“The authenticity project is just getting underway,” Bellis says. “We are seeing wine and pork as major areas of interest,” he adds, noting that food fingerprinting is expected to emerge rapidly due to government pressure on the retail sector to develop robust methods around product traceability. “Anything organic has the ability to be fingerprinted to designate its origins,” Bellis explains. “Ultimately, retailers will be held accountable in assuring that everyone in their supply chain is compliant with all requirements, everywhere.” As that process unfolds, Campden BRI has the expertise and the right analytical instrumentation to ensure that the world’s food supply remains both genuine and safe.
Looking ahead, South notes that Campden BRI is known for adopting new processes, equipment, and developing technical collaborations that the company positions as a global center of excellence for the food and drink industry. “We hope to expand our relationship into the critically important areas of next-generation sequencing and traceability of ingredients and raw materials, and we are looking to expand our work in food and non-food forensics,” he says. “As the scope of regulation continues to broaden and demands more support from analytical technology, we see a lot of shared value in working together with PerkinElmer for the benefit of both organizations.”
In addition to EDR, what puts the NexION 350 ICP-MS in a class by itself are its unique triple-cone interface, quadrupole ion deflector design, and Syngistix™ software. The triple cone interface offers the industry’s most tightly focused ion beam and prevents sample deposition on internal components, which improves stability and eliminates the need for additional runs and sample dilutions.
The quadrupole ion deflector, meanwhile, is a unique disruptive technology that turns positively charged ions 90° before they enter the patented Universal Cell and analyzing quadrupole to reduce background and interferences for more accurate results. The quadrupole ion deflector is the only filter of its kind to allow mass bandpass adjustments on the fly automatically to maximize sensitivity for every element in a run. Because it is precisely aligned with the triple-cone interface, ions and neutrals never impact the component’s surfaces. In fact, the instrument is so effective at removing unionized material, it is the only ICP-MS with a cell that never needs user maintenance or replacement.
Add in PerkinElmer’s Syngistix for ICP-MS software and Campden BRI scientists are doing more of what they love – science. Developed especially for the NexION, Syngistix features an easy-to-use, intuitive interface, along with new automated method setup tools for faster implementation. Faster, more accurate, setting a new standard in reliability, the NexION 350 with EDR is helping Campden BRI scientists make sure that the food and drinks we all enjoy continue to be safe, no matter where we live.