Microextraction Technologies: Amplifying Quality Control in Food

Food science is a multidisciplinary science encompassing food processing and safety to nutritional and agricultural science. It provides scientists with a greater understanding of a substance – or analyte – within a product, including its composition, structure, and sensory traits, which play a major role in determining the nutritional value and safety of processed and fresh products.

Microextraction Technologies: Amplifying Quality Control in Food

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When manufacturing food goods, companies are required to abide by food safety standards,1 and quality control is an inescapable measure of compliance. In the food and agriculture sector, analytical chemistry is a vital part of the quality control process, and analyte screening is critical to ensuring that products are safe to consume. Sensory variables are key to this process, as flavor and aroma are typically regarded as major indicators of quality.1

Open conversations regarding current and innovative analyte screening techniques are vital when it comes to revolutionizing the field of food and agriculture, especially in terms of combatting some of the limitations of traditional analytical techniques, some of which comprise low sensitivity and complex datasets that require extensive time and resources to understand.2 For instance, recent progression in the field, such as in the area of microextraction, has allowed for the fabrication of novel techniques that are able to overcome these limiting factors.

As a main track at this year’s Pittcon, globally renowned food and agriculture professionals will be meeting to share their expertise on the matter, exploring some of the current microextraction technologies that have the potential to help overcome some of the industry’s most prevalent challenges regarding the quality and safety of everyday food products. 

Solving Analytical Challenges with Microextraction Technologies

To identify and characterize analytes in foods, researchers can use analytical chemistry techniques such as gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (LC) paired with mass spectrometry (MS).3 To enhance these methods, techniques such as solid-phase micro-extraction (SPME) ­–preparing samples for analysis with small amounts of extract phases to extract target analytes – are emerging.3 After preparing samples using SPME, food scientists can easily transfer large portions of analytes to GC-MS or LC-MS machinery for robust analysis with accurate and reliable results.3

Presenters of the “Application of Microextraction Technologies to Food Determinations” talk at this year’s Pittcon will delve into improvements to contaminant screening for food products using SPME technologies.4 One of the researchers presenting the talk will be Dr. Janusz Pawliszyn, a chemistry professor from the University of Waterloo. His work spans food analysis and boosting quality control of food products through innovative methods such as SPME. For example, in a paper recently published in the journal Talanta, Pawliszyn and his research team demonstrated that pesticides could be detected and analyzed in soy milk via SPME combined with GC-MS, eliminating the need for time-consuming pre-treatment processes of soy milk for analytical study.5

Microextraction technologies coupled with GS-MS and LC-MS are especially useful for quality control, such as in the study described above, as they can be applied to a diverse array of substances and increase the specificity and accuracy of results.6 When it comes to combining SPME with GS-MS and LC-MS analytical methods, researchers are improving how quickly and effectively harmful compounds or compounds of lesser quality are present in the materials people consume.

Another example is discussed in the “Comparing aroma profiles of whisky by SPME-GCxGC-TOF MS” talk, which spotlights a novel analytical process that can straightforwardly assess whiskey quality by identifying specific chemical markers.7  Trace levels of compounds can be critical in determining the safety of food and beverages. According to a review article published in Microchemical Journal, traditional methods of chemical analysis often have low sensitivities, and thus, it is difficult for researchers to detect, identify, and analyze trace amounts of contaminants in food samples – a hurdle that can be overcome by implementing SPME into studies.2

In the presentation on analyzing whiskey aromatics, SPME is coupled with comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography and time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOF MS), which demonstrated efficacy in extracting accurate analytical results of low levels of compounds in simple steps. This is unlike traditional methods, which tend to require further computational analysis to try and reveal trace levels of substances in foods.7

Applying Innovative Microextraction Techniques to the Food Industry

In addition to academic research scientists, Pittcon will host industry researchers from leading analytical chemistry companies, including Shimadzu Scientific Instruments and Gerstel Inc.

In the talk “Comprehensive Analysis of Aromatic Compounds in Milk using GC-MS, SPME Arrow and Smart Aroma Database,” scientists from Shimadzu will present evidence that highlights SPME as an effective tool in analyzing aromatic compounds with high sensitivity from different types of milk. They will then outline how this data can be used to evaluate the overall quality of milk, which would be especially helpful in the milk production process.8

A group of food scientists will also host a presentation entitled “Integrated analysis of aromas and metabolites in beers with Smart Databases for GC-MS,” extending the research to the analysis of beer.9 Here, the scientists utilized Smart Databases for GC-MS to analyze aromas and metabolites in nine different beers and revealed a correlation that can be used to assess beer quality.9 In the Smart Databases, GC-MS conditions are pre-registered, and various odor characteristics are to allow for different flavors to be accurately and easily detected.

Pittcon Innovates Food and Agriculture

Analytical chemistry technologies are propelling innovation in the food and agricultural sectors. From assessing alcoholic beverages like beer and whiskey to influencing dairy production, microextraction technologies are emerging as a revolutionary technique to amplify quality control in food.10, 11 Pittcon ensures an environment of collaboration and innovation to solve global challenges to food and agriculture. For more information on the event, please visit the Pittcon website.12

References and Further Reading

  1. Nielsen, S. Suzanne. (2017) “Introduction to Food Analysis.” Food Science Text Series, pp. 3–16, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-45776-5_1. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.
  2. Jalili, Vahid, et al. (2020) “A Comprehensive Look at Solid-Phase Microextraction Technique: A Review of Reviews.” Microchemical Journal,  152, p. 104319, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.microc.2019.104319. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.
  3. Xu, Jianqiao, and Gangfeng Ouyang. (2018) “Extraction: Solid-Phase Microextraction.” Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering, 14552-4. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023. 
  4. “Pittcon - Session.” Secure-Platform.com, 2023, Available at: https://www.pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitatiLons/1/sessiongallery/38. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023. 
  5. Gionfriddo, Emanuela, et al. (2020) “Direct-Immersion SPME in Soy Milk for Pesticide Analysis at Trace Levels by Means of a Matrix-Compatible Coating.” Talanta, 211, p. 120746, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.talanta.2020.120746. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.
  6. Dan, T., et al. (2017) “Characterization of Volatile Compounds in Fermented Milk Using Solid-Phase Microextraction Methods Coupled with Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry.” Journal of Dairy Science, 100(4), , pp. 2488–2500, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2016-11528. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023. 
  7. “Pittcon - Session.” Secure-Platform.com, 2023, pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery/410. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.
  8. “Pittcon - Session.” Secure-Platform.com, 2023, pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery/414. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.
  9. “Pittcon - Session.” Secure-Platform.com, 2023, pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery/411. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.
  10. “Technical Program - Pittcon Conference + Expo.” Pittcon Conference + Expo, 19 Jan. 2023, pittcon.org/technical-program/. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.
  11. “Pittcon - Session Gallery.” Secure-Platform.com, 2023, https://pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.
  12. “Home - Pittcon Conference + Expo.” Pittcon Conference + Expo, 19 Jan. 2023, pittcon.org/. Accessed on 7 Feb. 2023.


This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Pittcon.

For more information on this source, please visit Pittcon.


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