Tuesday, April 8, 2014
By Michelle Taylor, Editor
Spectroscopy solutions for food and environmental apps and advanced hybrid systems took center stage at Pittcon 2014.
The 65th annual Pittsburgh Conference and Exposition on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon) brought together more than 16,200 conferees and exhibitor personnel seeking the latest instrumentation and technology offerings in laboratory science. With 935 exhibitors from 32 countries occupying 1,763 booths, there was plenty of innovation to go around.
For the second consecutive year, the Food Labs Conference was held in conjunction with Pittcon. While the Food Lab Conference generally takes a more holistic approach to best practices in food management, Pittcon itself took a decidedly hard turn toward the food industry, debuting dozens of food-specific instruments, methods and applications.
MicroRaman and other tandem/hybrid systems were also on full display, as well as compact, portable spectrometers and helium shortage solutions.
Importance of food testing
According to Chris Elliott, Chair of Food Safety and Microbiology at Queen’s Univ., Belfast, last year the UK experienced the largest reduction of consumer trust in the food supply since the 1980s. The horsemeat-sold-as-beef scandal rocked Europe, only to have further investigation reveal that 5 percent of all beef sold is contaminated. Additional statistics only worsen the trend: according to the CDC, 48 million people fall ill each year from food poisoning, 128,000 are hospitalized and more than 3,000 die.
“Food crime is a global phenomena,” says Elliott. “Criminals are now operating in many areas of food supply systems. Currently, we are looking into how advanced mass spectrometry can be used to detect this criminal activity, and developing fingerprinting methods to determine if food has been tampered with.”
In conjunction with the Univ. of Munster, Germany, AB SCIEX, Framingham, Mass., has developed a rapid LCMS/MS method for identification of pig and horse contamination, based on the detection of biomarker peptides that are animal specific. The method uses AB SCIEX’s TripleTOF 5600 system to first identify the protein markers specific to a meat species. It then uses the QTRAP 5500 system to detect and confirm the presence of targeted meat peptides in unknown samples. The QTRAP 5500 system uses multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) to detect each peptide and confirm its identity. The mass spectrometry-based method offers a more accurate and reliable approach than other methods. It can detect markers of multiple, different animal species in a single run versus traditional methods, such as PCR or ELISA, which are prone to false negative or false positive findings.