Rapid Profiling and Authentication of Cinnamon Samples Using Ambient Ionization (DART) and Single Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry

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Kari Organtini and Gareth Cleland
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Application Notes
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Cinnamon is derived from the dried inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree. There are four species of cinnamon commercially sold for consumption: C. verum (Ceylon), C. cassia (Chinese), C. burmannii (Korintje), and C. loureiroi (Saigon). Each variety has a distinct flavor and aroma profile resulting from the essential oil in the cinnamon tree bark.

Due to its popularity, cinnamon is one of the most commonly adulterated spices on the market. C. verum is considered the “true cinnamon” and it is more expensive than the other varieties. This leads to adulteration of cinnamon, or even substitution with a lower priced variety.

While there are subtle taste and odor differences between the species of cinnamon, there is an important difference in chemical makeup of the cinnamon varieties. C. verum is known to be the only species of cinnamon to naturally contain low levels of coumarin. Coumarin is a compound of concern as it is regarded as a hepatotoxic compound. It produces a sweet smell that made it a popular food additive before it was banned due to its potential toxicity. Therefore substitution of C. verum with C. cassia, C. burmannii, and C. loureiroi cinnamon can be concerning.

Typically, analysis to determine cinnamon species is performed using a variety of methods that include sample extraction and chromatographic separation steps. Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART) is an ambient ionization technique that eliminates the needs for time-consuming sample preparation and chromatographic separation.

In this application note, we describe a novel approach that employs DART and the ACQUITY QDa Detector for the simple and rapid analysis of cinnamon samples to determine species origin. Whole stick and ground cinnamon samples were successfully analyzed using this DART-MS technique and species identifications on store bought cinnamon samples are provided.

Using direct analysis of samples in combination with mass detection allows:

  • Rapid screening
  • Ambient ionization
  • Little to no sample preparation
  • No chromatography needed
  • Ease of use
  • Spice profiling

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