A global inter-laboratory study to assess acquisition modes for multi-compound confirmatory analysis of veterinary drugs using liquid chromatography coupled to triple quadrupole, time of flight and orbitrap mass spectrometry

Bjorn J.A. Berendsen*, Thijs Meijer, Hans G.J. Mol, Leen van Ginkel, Michel W.F. Nielen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


According to EU legislation a confirmatory method used for residue analysis should be able to confirm the identity of a compound beyond reasonable doubt. To provide an adequate instrumental set-up, Commission Decision 2002/657/EC introduced the concept of "identification points". A second aspect to assure unequivocal confirmation, is the establishment of ion ratio and retention time criteria. Currently, the gold standard for confirmatory analysis of most veterinary drug residues is liquid chromatography (LC) coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) in selected reaction monitoring (SRM) acquisition mode, isolating one precursor ion and monitoring two a priori selected product ions, yielding 4 identification points. We comprehensively evaluated the use of different low and high resolution LC-MS(/MS) techniques and acquisition modes with respect to the selectivity of 100 veterinary drugs in liver, muscle and urine extracts aiming to critically review the currently established identification points system. A comparison among MS/MS in SRM mode with high resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) in full scan, all ion fragmentation and targeted MS/MS was made based on a unique inter-laboratory study, which comprises 21 laboratories from four different continents and equipment from all major vendors.In total 186 samples were analysed yielding results for 9282 analyte/matrix combinations. It was observed that the false positive rate approximately doubles if no ion ratio criterion is applied indicating that this criterion is important to prevent false positive results. Full scan HRMS analysis, only monitoring the molecular ion and allowing a ±5 ppm mass tolerance is, in general, less selective than low resolution MS/MS using SRM, and thus full scan alone is considered not sufficient for confirmatory analysis. Furthermore, even though the number of data on all ion fragmentation and targeted MS/MS at high resolution was limited, based on the data obtained, it was observed that the acquisition mode as well as the mass resolution needed, very much depend on the matrix and the compound itself. For complex matrix extracts and non-selective compounds (worst-case situation), only targeted MS/MS, monitoring the precursor ion and a single product ion in HR-MS using a maximum of ±5 ppm mass deviation, leads to comparable selectivity and false positive and negative rate as SRM monitoring two product ions in LR-MS. We conclude that the currently applied identification point system as established in commission decision 2002/657/EC should be revised with respect to the allocation of identification points.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-72
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • Inter-laboratory study
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Performance criteria
  • Veterinary drugs residue analysis

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