More than once in my marriage—in fact, more than once in the last month—my significant other has presented me with a mysterious substance and asked, “Does this taste funny to you?” I generally decline these invitations to explore the unknown, not because I lack the courage, though that is true, but as someone with a science background, I feel I lack the proper instrumentation.
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Explore this issueOctober/November 2009
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Actually, real scientists are increasingly faced with this same dilemma. According to “The Analytical Cornucopia,” a report issued recently by Los Angeles-based consulting firm Strategic Directions International (SDI), the global market for laboratory instrumentation dedicated to food applications amounted to $2 billion last year. Technology geared toward the detection of pesticides—which really do taste funny—garnered a large stack of those dollars.
“Although simple, non-quantitative test kits can provide information on the presence of pesticides and other residues, the food industry is increasingly turning toward the quantitative analytical solutions like those used by regulatory agencies,” said Michael Tice, vice president of consulting for SDI. He added that the technologies currently experiencing the greatest growth in pesticide analysis are liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS).
Contributing to that growth is the recent purchase by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the Acquity UPLC/ Xevo TQ Mass Spectrometry System, from the Waters Corp., Milford, Mass. “We’re continually trying to stay abreast of new technology,” says Charles Stafford, team leader of the analytical chemistry branch of the EPA lab in Fort Meade, Md. “We need machines that can detect lower and lower levels of pesticides, and frankly, we need more machines. All our instruments are booked.”
Since the melamine scare of two years ago, Stafford has noticed not only an uptick in overall activity but also a new emphasis on screening samples for unknowns. “We just weren’t doing things like that before, looking for what shouldn’t be there. The same holds true for novel pesticides. So we’re struggling with approaches and instrumentation which will allow us to screen samples for untargeted compounds.”
That is not to say that Stafford is actually doing most of the testing. His lab primarily develops the analytic methods to support regulatory activities, those that discern the dietary exposure side of the risk-assessment equation. “We help either develop methods or provide maximum residue levels (MRL) data that will help scientists determine whether a chemical is safe.”| | | Next → | Single Page