Can high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with fluorescence detection under all conditions be regarded as a sufficiently conclusive confirmatory method for B-group substances?

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Commission Decision 2002/657/EC requires confirmatory analysis of B-group compounds when detected at levels above the permitted limit. In contrast to banned substances, for B-group substances, the use of mass spectrometric techniques is not obligatory and several techniques including liquid chromatography (LC)-ultraviolet light (UV) on two different LC columns and (single-column) high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-fluorescence (Flu) are considered to deliver sufficient evidence for the identification of the detected substance. The analysis of sodium salicylate in animal drinking water collected at poultry farms is presented here as an example to show that even in a simple matrix such as animal drinking water, fluorescence detection in some cases may provide inadequate specificity. Of 50 samples analysed by LC-Flu, 18 tested positive for sodium salicylate. However, only in one sample was the presence of the analyte confirmed with mass spectrometric detection; the others were blank. Consequently, the LC-Flu results obtained were false-non-compliant for sodium salicylate. A second case concerning the analysis of avermectins in milk by HLPC-Flu is briefly described. For a number of samples analysed in the framework of a proficiency test, false non-compliant results for emamectin were reported due to a background interference sometimes present that practically co-eluted with the analyte. The observed retention time difference (1%) was well below the criterion (2.5%) specified in Commission Decision 2002/657/EC. Considering the impact of positive findings on individual farmers as well as on trade, product image and food safety perception by the consumer, it is concluded that also for B-group substances false-non-compliant results should be avoided whenever possible. This is especially important when the results are treated as and are expected to have the same repercussions as in the case of banned A-group substances. In these circumstances, only results obtained by mass spectrometry should be considered for confirmatory purposes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1156
JournalFood Additives and Contaminants
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2006



  • mass-spectrometry
  • salicylic-acid
  • surface-water
  • waste-water
  • drugs

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