Tue, 09/19/2017 - 15:07

Instrumental Analysis

Instrumental analytics offers many proven examination methods. It allows analyzing the fatty acid spectrum of a food product, identifying the presence of trace elements and heavy metals, detecting harmful substances such as mycotoxins or pesticides, and determining the sugar, sweetener and caffeine content.

Instrumental analytics offers many proven examination methods. It allows analyzing the fatty acid spectrum of a food product, identifying the presence of trace elements and heavy metals, detecting harmful substances such as mycotoxins or pesticides, and determining the sugar, sweetener and caffeine content.

Elements/Heavy Metals

We analyze bulk and trace elements as well as heavy metals using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) or atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS).

We can determine the following elements:

  • Sodium, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphor
  • Arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury
  • Iodine
  • Chrome, cobalt, copper, nickel, manganese, selenium, zinc and tin
  • Additional elements on request
Fatty Acid Spectrum

The determination of the fatty acid spectrum provides control of the nutritional values in accordance with the Directive on Nutritional Labeling (Big 8 or Big 7). In addition, examining the fat composition can also determine the amounts of omega-3 and trans-fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, whose consumption is vital for nutrition. Trans-fatty acids are created mainly during industrial fat hardening as well as while heating fats and oils to high temperatures. Since excessive consumption of trans-fatty acids has been linked to health issues, many states and countries are setting maximum values for trans-fatty acids in products and requiring the amount to be disclosed.

We analyze the fatty acid content using gas chromatography with flame ionization detection (GC-FID) and can determine the following parameters:

  • Fatty acid spectrum: Includes 37 saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Trans-fatty acids
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Butyric acid

Mycotoxins are metabolic products produced by fungi. Many of these substances are resistant to heat and acid treatment, and are not generally destroyed during processing.

Food and animal feed products can be contaminated by mycotoxins before or after processing, for example by the appearance of mold before harvesting or during storage. In addition, they can also be contained in animal-based products if the livestock has consumed contaminated feed. Mycotoxins are subject to strict legal regulations since they can be toxic to humans and animals even in the slightest concentrations.

Mycotoxins are analyzed after immunoaffinity chromatographic enrichment using high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection (HPLC-FLD).

We can determine the following mycotoxins:

  • Aflatoxins (B1, B2, G1 and G2)
  • Ochratoxin A
  • Zearalenone
  • T-2 and HT-2 toxins
  • Deoxynivalenol
  • Fumonisins
  • Patulin
Plant Protection Products

A multitude of plant protection products is used in the commercial cultivation of fruits, vegetables and grains as well as during storage of foods or raw materials of plant origin. Several hundred active ingredients are approved in the European Union, and the global transport of foods adds many additional ingredients.

To determine pesticide residues, the samples are homogenized using liquid nitrogen, extracted according to the QuEChERS sample preparation technique, and subsequently analyzed after liquid (LC) or gas chromatographic (GC) separation using mass selective detection (MS or MS/MS respectively).

We offer several multi- and single-method analyses:

  • Multi-method with over 350 ingredients
  • Phenoxyalkanecarboxylic acids
  • Dithiocarbamate
  • Total bromide
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs)
  • Chlorate and perchlorate
  • Chlormequat and mepiquat
  • Ethephon
  • Glyphosate
  • Maleic hydrazide
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Additional ingredients in single methods or upon request
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of organic compounds. They are a natural component of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas and occur during the incomplete burning of organic material.

PAHs have great significance as environmental contaminants due to their toxic characteristics. They are absorbed by the soil, air and surface water via exhaust fumes and contaminated sites, and therefore food can become contaminated as well. In addition, PAHs can occur during thermal processing or preparation of food  (such as smoking, drying, grilling, roasting, barbequing and baking). PAHs can enter the body through food and drinking water, and can also be absorbed while breathing and through the skin. Many PAHs have been proven to have carcinogenic effects.

In the past, benzopyrene was considered the sole indicator for the presence of PAHs, but now there are four marker substances with corresponding maximum values (4 PAHs). The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends examining 16 PAHs, which are relevant for food and potentially harmful to the health of humans (EFSA-PAH).

We analyze PAH residues using a gas chromatograph with tandem mass spectrometer (GC-MS/MS) and capture the following parameters or groups:

  • Benzopyrene
  • 4 PAHs: Benzopyrene, benzo[a]anthracene, benzo[b]fluoranthene and chrysene
  • EFSA-PAH: 16 PAHs relevant for food (incl. PAH 4)
Veterinary Medications

Veterinary medications serve to treat sick animals and to perform the prophylactic treatment of entire animal populations. In addition, they are used as sedatives during transport or to encourage growth.

The medications often also show a physiological effect in humans. They can easily transfer into food and thus become a direct toxicological threat to consumers. Additionally, with subclinical intake of antibiotics there is the danger of resistant, non-treatable germs forming.  The use of veterinary medications is therefore comprehensively and strictly regulated. Aside from total bans of several substances, there are bans specific to certain animal species or to animals for a specific use (dairy cows, laying hens).

We test for residues of veterinary medications using liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometer (LC-MS/MS) and can determine the following substances or substance groups using single and multiple methods:

  • Multi-method with approx. 40 ingredients
  • Tetracyclines
  • Quinolones
  • Macrolides
  • Sulfonamides
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Thiamphenicol
  • Ractopamine
  • Trimethoprim
  • Additional substances on request

We determine the nitrate content of vegetables using ion chromatography.


We perform sugar analyses using high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection (HPLC-ECD) and capture the following monosaccharides and disaccharides:

  • Fructose and glucose
  • Lactose, maltose and sucrose
Sweeteners and Preservatives

We analyze additives used to sweeten or preserve food using liquid chromatographic (HPLC) separation and a UV detector or diode array detector (DAD).

We can analyze the following substances:

  • Sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium, aspartame and saccharin
  • Preservatives: Benzoic acid, sorbic acid, and PHB ester

We determine the natural or added amount of caffeine using (high-performance liquid chromatography with UV detection (HPLC-UV).


Coumarin is a naturally-occurring secondary plant substance with a pleasant spicy aroma. It can be found in woodruff, tonka beans and Cassia cinnamon and as a natural ingredient in food, drinks and spices containing cinnamon. In addition, coumarin is frequently used to add scent to cosmetic products.

Cassia cinnamon tends to contain a higher coumarin concentration than Ceylon cinnamon.

In greater quantities, coumarin is harmful to health so it is not permitted as an additive in food products. Due to its natural occurrence (in particular in Cassia cinnamon) there are appropriate maximum quantities for cinnamon and products containing cinnamon (e.g. baked goods).

We determine coumarin content using liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).

Foreign Matter Determination

We use attenuated total reflection (ATR) infrared spectroscopy to analyze the surface of samples as the first step in identifying or characterizing foreign matter in food.

Plastics (PP, PE, PET etc.) can be identified very clearly via a comparison with an IR spectrum library. Identification of other materials may require additional analyses.


Dr. Peer Hasebein
Head of Instrumental Analysis