Food Analytical Methods

, Volume 12, Issue 10, pp 2383–2391 | Cite as

Modular Method for the Determination of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Spices and Dried Herbs by Gas Chromatography–Tandem Mass Spectrometry

  • Philippe SzternfeldEmail author
  • Jessica Marchi
  • Svetlana V. Malysheva
  • Laure Joly


This paper describes a method for quantification of the four regulated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), (benzo[a]anthracene [BaA], chrysene [CHR], benzo[b]fluoranthene [BbF] and benzo[a]pyrene [BaP]), in the wide matrix group of spices and dried herbs by gas chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (GC–MS/MS). The design of this method was drawn up using basic material and equipment available in most laboratories and a modular clean-up fitting for each category of this very diverse matrix group. The clean-up strategy consists of dividing this matrix group into three subclasses: regular spices, highly pigmented matrices and complex mix of spices/fatty spices. Depending on the subclass, SPE sorbent is adapted to remove maximum of co-extracts and to obtain clean samples. This method has a limit of quantification of 0.5 μg kg−1 for each PAH and the validation criteria fully satisfied the Commission Regulation (EU) No. 836/2011 (< 0.9 μg kg−1). The quantification performed by isotopic dilution allowed the complete correction of matrix effect and led to very good validation data with a mean recovery close to 100% and a within-laboratory reproducibility below 10% (≤ 22% in Regulation (EU) No. 836/2011) for each PAH and for each matrix group at all concentration levels tested. Furthermore, the method’s performance characteristics have been successfully assessed using a representative certified reference material for each subclass and at a level close to the MRL: 10 μg kg−1 for BaP and 50 μg kg−1 for the sum of the 4 PAHs.


PAHs Spices Dried herbs Gas chromatography Mass spectrometry 



Philippe Szternfeld is grateful to Julie Broos and Suching Chao for the support provided during the development part of this method.

Philippe Szternfeld is grateful to Dr Martin Kaminski (Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, Berlin, Germany) and to Dr Martijn van der Lee (RIKILT, Wageningen, The Netherlands) for providing the curry and spirulina samples.

Funding Information

The authors are grateful for the financial support provided by the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (AFSCA-FAVV).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Philippe Szternfeld declares that he has no conflict of interest. Jessica Marchi declares that she has no conflict of interest. Svetlana V. Malysheva declares that she has no conflict of interest. Laure Joly declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Studies

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.

Informed Consent

Not applicable.

Supplementary material

12161_2019_1579_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chemical & Physical Health Risks DepartmentSciensanoIxellesBelgium

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