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Mass Spectrom Rev. 2006 Jan-Feb;25(1):54-76.

Recent advances in mycotoxin determination in food and feed by hyphenated chromatographic techniques/mass spectrometry.

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Department of Organic and Industrial Chemistry, University of Parma, Parco Area delle Scienze 17/a, I-43100, Parma, Italy.


Mycotoxins are fungal toxins produced by molds, which occur universally in food and feed derivatives, and are produced under certain environmental conditions in the field before harvest, post-harvest, during storage, processing, and feeding. Mycotoxin contamination is one of the most relevant and worrisome problem concerning food and feed safety because it can cause a variety of toxic acute and chronic effects in human and animals. In this review we report the use of mass spectrometry in connection with chromatographic techniques for mycotoxin determination by considering separately the most diffuse class of mycotoxins: patulin, aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, zearalenone, trichothecenes, and fumonisins. Although the selectivity of mass spectrometry is unchallenged if compared to common GC and LC detection methods, accuracy, precision, and sensitivity may be extremely variable concerning the different mycotoxins, matrices, and instruments. The sensitivity issue may be a real problem in the case of LC/MS, where the response can be very different for the different ionization techniques (ESI, APCI, APPI). Therefore, when other detection methods (such as fluorescence or UV absorbance) can be used for the quantitative determination, LC/MS appears to be only an outstanding confirmatory technique. In contrast, when the toxins are not volatile and do not bear suitable chromophores or fluorophores, LC/MS appears to be the unique method to perform quantitative and qualitative analyses without requiring any derivatization procedure. The problem of exact quantitative determination in GC/MS and LC/MS methods is particularly important for mycotoxin determination in food, given the high variability of the matrices, and can be solved only by the use of isotopically labeled internal standards or by the use of ionization interfaces able to lower matrix effects and ion suppressions. When the problems linked to inconstant ionization and matrix effects will be solved, only MS detectors will allow to simplify more and more the sample preparation procedures and to avoid clean-up procedures, making feasible low-cost, high-throughput determination of mycotoxins in many different food matrices.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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