Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 410, Issue 22, pp 5629–5640 | Cite as

Analysis of a variety of inorganic and organic additives in food products by ion-pairing liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry

  • Anton KaufmannEmail author
  • Mirjam Widmer
  • Kathryn Maden
  • Patrick Butcher
  • Stephan Walker
Research Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Food Safety Analysis


A reversed-phase ion-pairing chromatographic method was developed for the detection and quantification of inorganic and organic anionic food additives. A single-stage high-resolution mass spectrometer (orbitrap ion trap, Orbitrap) was used to detect the accurate masses of the unfragmented analyte ions. The developed ion-pairing chromatography method was based on a dibutylamine/hexafluoro-2-propanol buffer. Dibutylamine can be charged to serve as a chromatographic ion-pairing agent. This ensures sufficient retention of inorganic and organic anions. Yet, unlike quaternary amines, it can be de-charged in the electrospray to prevent the formation of neutral analyte ion-pairing agent adducts. This process is significantly facilitated by the added hexafluoro-2-propanol. This approach permits the sensitive detection and quantification of additives like nitrate and mono-, di-, and triphosphate as well as citric acid, a number of artificial sweeteners like cyclamate and aspartame, flavor enhancers like glutamate, and preservatives like sorbic acid. This is a major advantage, since the currently used analytical methods as utilized in food safety laboratories are only capable in monitoring a few compounds or a particular category of food additives.

Graphical abstract

Deptotonation of ion pair agent in the electrospray interface


Anionic food additives Food safety Ion-pairing chromatography High-resolution mass spectrometry Orbitrap 


Compliance with ethical standards

The authors adhered to ethical standards.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

No studies involving human participants or animals were conducted.

Informed consent

Not applicable.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anton Kaufmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mirjam Widmer
    • 1
  • Kathryn Maden
    • 1
  • Patrick Butcher
    • 1
  • Stephan Walker
    • 1
  1. 1.Official Food Control AuthorityZürichSwitzerland

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