The term dioxins is commonly used in reference to polychlorinated dibenzo-pdioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). These are a group of chemically related compounds, known to be toxic and persist as ubiquitous pollutants. Therefore, dioxins are restricted internationally under the Stockholm Convention, along with other nationally enforced regulations.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has conducted human-based risk assessments, setting Toxic Equivalent Factors (TEFs) for these compounds. In accordance with Regulation 1881/2006/EC dioxin levels must be reported as Toxic Equivalences (TEQ), where the determined concentration is multiplied by the TEF, and individual values are summed.
Given their persistence and toxicity, analytical methodology is required to ensure food safety and consumer protection. Due to the legislative requirements in Europe and America, the gold standard for dioxin analysis uses gas chromatography coupled with high resolution mass spectrometry (GC-HRMS), which has been traditionally operated by electron impact (EI). Much of the criteria for the analytical methodology is based upon the most toxic dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD.
Following recent technological advances, and after a detailed evaluation, the European Commission has legislated that tandem quadrupole (GC-MS/MS) may be used as a confirmatory method. Regulation 589/2014/EU sets the performance criteria related to the specificity, sensitivity, confirmatory ions, resolution and calibration for the confirmation of dioxins in food and feed. This regulation is enforced in conjunction with existing requirements.
In this application note, Atmospheric Pressure Gas Chromatography (APGC), coupled with a highly sensitive tandem quadrupole mass spectrometer, Xevo TQ-S, is demonstrated as a sensitive and robust option for confirmatory analysis of PCDDs and PCDFs by GC-MS/MS in compliance with 589/2014/EU.
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