Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 410, Issue 22, pp 5465–5479 | Cite as

Use of a quality control approach to assess measurement uncertainty in the comparison of sample processing techniques in the analysis of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables

  • Steven J. Lehotay
  • Lijun Han
  • Yelena Sapozhnikova
Research Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Food Safety Analysis


In routine monitoring of foods, reduction of analyzed test portion size generally leads to higher sample throughput, less labor, and lower costs of monitoring, but to meet analytical needs, the test portions still need to accurately represent the original bulk samples. With the intent to determine minimal fit-for-purpose sample size, analyses were conducted for up to 93 incurred and added pesticide residues in 10 common fruits and vegetables processed using different sample comminution equipment. The commodities studied consisted of apple, banana, broccoli, celery, grape, green bean, peach, potato, orange, and squash. A Blixer® was used to chop the bulk samples at room temperature, and test portions of 15, 10, 5, 2, and 1 g were taken for analysis (n = 4 each). Additionally, 40 g subsamples (after freezing) were further comminuted using a cryomill device with liquid nitrogen, and test portions of 5, 2, and 1 g were analyzed (n = 4 each). Both low-pressure gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LPGC-MS/MS) and ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC)-MS/MS were used for analysis. An empirical approach was followed to isolate and estimate the measurement uncertainty contribution of each step in the overall method by adding quality control spikes prior to each step. Addition of an internal standard during extraction normalized the sample preparation step to 0% error contribution, and coefficients of variation (CVs) were 6–7% for the analytical steps (LC and GC) and 6–9% for the sample processing techniques. In practice, overall CVs averaged 9–11% among the different analytes, commodities, batches, test portion weights, and analytical and sample processing methods. On average, CVs increased up to 4% and bias 8–12% when using 1–2 g test portions vs. 10–15 g.

Graphical abstract

Efficient quality control approach to include sample processing


Sample processing Comminution Measurement uncertainty Pesticide residues analysis Fruits and vegetables 



We thank Robyn Moten, Limei Yun, and Tawana Simons for their help in the laboratory related to this study. We also thank Joseph Uknalis for the help using the microscope.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2018_905_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.9 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1.94 mb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven J. Lehotay
    • 1
  • Lijun Han
    • 2
  • Yelena Sapozhnikova
    • 1
  1. 1.US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research ServiceEastern Regional Research CenterWyndmoorUSA
  2. 2.College of ScienceChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina

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