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Chemical speciation analysis for nutrition and food science


One of the major topics for evaluating the nutritional value of food is the bioavailability of nutrients, minerals and trace elements. Since the bioavailability depends strongly on the chemical speciation of the target nutrient, chemical speciation  analysis or at least fractionation analysis with respect to bioavailability is a important task in food analysis. The bioavailability also depends on the interaction of the target compounds with other ingredients of the foodstuffs. To study such interactions, binding partners, complexing reactions and species transformation, chemical analysis has to provide data on the chemical compounds as they are present. Speciation analysis (or sometimes fractionation analysis) is therefore used for the enhanced characterisation of food products with respect to their nutritional value (minerals in food, e.g. bioavailability of Fe, Ca, Zn, Se, Co, Cr- species).

Another topic in food analysis is the risk assessment of contaminants and other toxic species. Since the toxicity of trace elements such as mercury, arsenic or lead heavily depends on their speciation, only speciation analysis provides the required information for a meaningful evaluation of health risks related to the presence of such potentially toxic species. The EVISA News (see below) provide an overview of the hot topics discussed during the last 20 years. Review articles may guide the interested reader towards the relevant literature:

Reviews related to chemical speciation analysis for food analysis (newest first)

Bashdar Abuzed Sadee, Yaseen Galalia, Salih M. S. Zebari, Toxicity, arsenic speciation and characteristics of hyphenated techniques used for arsenic determination in vegetables. A review, RSC Adv., 13/44 (2023) 30959. DOI: 10.1039/d3ra05770d

Karen S. Hoy, Tetiana Davydiuk, Xiaojian Chen, Chester Lau, Jordan R. M. Schofield, Xiufen Lu, Jennifer A. Graydon, Ruth Mitchell, Megan Reichert, X. Chris Le, Arsenic speciation in freshwater fish: challenges and research needs, Food Quality and Safety, 7 (2023) 1–25. DOI: 10.1093/fqsafe/fyad032

Davide Coniglio, Giovanni Ventura, Cosima D. Calvano, Ilario Losito, Tommaso R.I. Cataldi, Strategies for the analysis of arsenolipids in marine foods: A review, J. Pharm. Biomed. Anal.,  235 (2023) 115628. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpba.2023.115628

Ingrid Hagarová, Lucia Nemcek, Reliable Quantification of Ultratrace Selenium in Food, Beverages, and Water Samples by Cloud Point Extraction and Spectrometric Analysis, Nutrients, 14 (2022) 3530. DOI: 10.3390/nu14173530

Zhiping Jiang, Zhizhang Tian, Chuntao Zhang, Dengke Li, Ruoxin Wu, Nan Tian, Lixia Xing, Lichao Ma, Recent Advances in Speciation Analyses of Tobacco and other Important Economic Crops, Curr. Anal. Chem., 18 (2022) 518-528. DOI: 10.2174/1573411017999201201115234

W. Lorenc, A. Hanc, A. Sajnog, D. Baralkiewicz, LC/ICP-MS and Complementary Techniques in Bespoke and Nontargeted Speciation Analysis of Elements in Food Samples, Mass Spectrom. Rev., 2020. DOI: 10.1002/mas.21662

Caleb Luvonga, Catherine A. Rimmer, Lee L. Yu, Sang Bok Lee, Analytical Methodologies for the Determination of Organoarsenicals in Edible Marine Species: A Review, J. Agric. Food Chem., 68 (2020) 1910−1934. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.9b04525

Michéal Mac Monagail, Liam Morrison, Arsenic speciation in a variety of seaweeds and associated food products, Comprehensive Analytical Chemistry, 85 (2019) 267-310. DOI: 10.1016/bs.coac.2019.03.005

Elliott M. Hamilton, Scott D. Young, Elizabeth H. Bailey, Michael J. Watts, Chromium speciation in foodstuffs: A review, Food Chem., 250 (2018) 105-112. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.01.016

F. Seby, V. Vacchina, Critical assessment of hexavalent chromium species from different solid environmental, industrial and food matrices, Trends Anal. Chem., 104 (2018) 54-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.trac.2017.11.019

Patricia Smichowski, Agustín Londonio, The role of analytical techniques in the determination of metals and metalloids in dietary supplements: A review, Microchem. J., 136 (2018) 113-120. DOI: 10.1016/j.microc.2016.11.007

Stephen W.C. Chung, Andy H.T. Wu, Determination of butyltins, phenyltins and octyltins in foods with preservation of their moieties: A critical review on analytical methods, J. Chromatogr. A, 1505 (2017) 18-34. DOI: 10.1016/j.chroma.2017.05.014

Toni Llorente-Mirandes, Roser Rubio, and José Fermín López-Sánchez, Inorganic Arsenic Determination in Food: A Review of Analytical Proposals and Quality Assessment Over the Last Six Years, Appl. Spectrosc., 71/1 (2017) 25–69. DOI: 10.1177/0003702816652374

Francesco Cubadda, Brian P. Jackson, Kathryn L. Cottingham, Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne, Margaret Kurzius-Spencer, Human exposure to dietary inorganic arsenic and other arsenic species: State of knowledge, gaps and uncertainties, Sci. Tot. Environ., 579 (2017) 1228-1239. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.11.108

María Pilar Chantada-Vázquez, Antonio Moreda-Piñeiro, María Carmen Barciela-Alonso,  Pilar Bermejo-Barrera, Spectrometric-based techniques for metalbinding protein assessment in clinical, environmental, and food samples, Appl. Spectrosc. Rev., 52/2 (2017) 145-174, DOI: 10.1080/05704928.2016.1213736

Malgorzata Bodnar, Marzena Szczyglowska, Piotr Konieczka, Jacek NamiesnikMethods of Selenium Supplementation: Bioavailability and Determination of Selenium Compounds, Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr., 56/1 (2016) 36-55. DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2012.709550

Asta H. Petursdottir, Jens J. Sloth, Jörg Feldmann, Introduction of regulations for arsenic in feed and food with emphasis on inorganic arsenic, and implications for analytical chemistry, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 407 (2015) 8385–8396. DOI 10.1007/s00216-015-9019-1

W.A. Maher, M.J. Ellwood, F. Krikowa, G. Raber, S. Foster, Measurement of arsenic species in environmental, biological fluids and food samples by HPLC-ICPMS and HPLC-HG-AFS, J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 30/10 (2015) 2129-2183. DOI: 10.1039/c5ja00155b

Sergio L.C. Ferreira, Valfredo A. Lemos, Laiana O.B. Silva, Antonio F.S. Queiroz, Anderson S. Souza, Erik G.P. da Silva, Walter N.L. dos Santos, Cesário F. das Virgens, Analytical strategies of sample preparation for the determination of mercury in food matrices — A review, Microchem. J. , 121 (2015) 227–236. DOI: 10.1016/j.microc.2015.02.012 

Bashdar Sadee, M.E. Foulkes, S.J. Hill, Coupled techniques for arsenic speciation in food and drinking water: a review, J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 30 (2015) 102-118. DOI: 10.1039/c4ja00269e

Heather N. Lynch, Grace I. Greenberg, Margaret C. Pollock, Ari S. Lewis, A comprehensive evaluation of inorganic arsenic in food and considerations for dietary intake analyses, Sci. Total Environ., 496 (2014) 299–313. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-015-9019-1

Fang-Jie Zhao, Yong-Guan Zhu, Andrew A. Meharg, Methylated Arsenic Species in Rice: Geographical Variation, Origin, and Uptake Mechanisms, Environ. Sci. Technol. 47 (2013) 3957-3966. DOI: 10.1021/es304295n

Julian Tyson, The Determination of Arsenic Compounds: A Critical Review, ISRN Anal. Chem., 2013 (2013) ID 835371. DOI: 10.1155/2013/835371

Katarzyna Bierla, Joanna Szpunar, Alexandros Yiannikouris, Ryszard Lobinski, Comprehensive speciation of selenium in selenium-rich yeast, Trends Anal. Chem., 41 (2012) 122-132. DOI: 10.1016/j.trac.2012.08.006

Rola Bou Khouzam, Joanna Szpunar, Michel Holeman, Ryszard Lobinski, Trace element speciation in food: State of the art of analytical techniques and methods, Pure Appl. Chem., 84/2 (2012) 169–179. doi: 10.1351/PAC-CON-11-08-14

Veronika Sele, Jens J. Sloth, Anne-Katrine Lundebye, Erik H. Larsen, Marc H.G. Berntssen, Heidi Amlund, Arsenolipids in marine oils and fats: A review of occurrence, chemistry and future research needs, Food Chem., 133 (2012) 618–630. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.02.004

Lena Ruzik, Speciation of challenging elements in food by atomic spectrometry, Talanta, 93 (2012) 18–31. DOI: 10.1016/j.talanta.2012.01.066

Anne-Marie Carey, Enzo Lombi, Erica Donner, Martin D. de Jonge, Tracy Punshon, Brian P. Jackson, Mary Lou Guerinot, Adam H. Price, Andrew A. Meharg, A review of recent developments in the speciation and location of arsenic and selenium in rice grain, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 402 (2012) 3275–3286. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-011-5579-x

Stéphanie Clémens, Mathilde Monperrus, Olivier F.X. Donard, David Amouroux, Thierry Guérin, Mercury speciation in seafood using isotope dilution analysis: A review, Talanta, 89 (2012) 12–20. DOI: 10.1016/j.talanta.2011.12.064

Maja Welna, Anna Szymczycha-Madeja, Ewelina Stelmach, Pawel Pohl, Speciation and Fractionation of Elements in Tea Infusions, Crit. Rev. Anal. Chem., 42/4 (2012) 349-365. DOI: 10.1080/10408347.2012.694730 

M. Azizur Rahman, H. Hasegawa, High levels of inorganic arsenic in rice in areas where arsenic-contaminated water is used for irrigation and cooking, Sci. Total Environ., 409 (2011) 4645–4655.  DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.07.068

Jörg Feldmann, Eva M. Krupp, Critical review or scientific opinion paper: Arsenosugars—a class of benign arsenic species or justification for developing partly speciated arsenic fractionation in foodstuffs?, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 399 (2011) 1735–1741. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-010-4303-6

Jorge Moreda-Piñeiro, Antonio Moreda-Piñeiro, Vanessa Romarís-Hortas, Carmen Moscoso-Pérez, Purificación López-Mahía, Soledad Muniategui-Lorenzo, Pilar Bermejo-Barrera, Darío Prada-Rodríguez, In-vivo and in-vitro testing to assess the bioaccessibility and the bioavailability of arsenic, selenium and mercury species in food samples, Trends Anal. Chem., 30/2 (2011) 324-345. DOI: 10.1016/j.trac.2010.09.008

Claudia Niegel, Frank-Michael Matysik, Analytical methods for the determination of arsenosugars—A review of recent trends and developments, Anal. Chim. Acta,  657 (2010) 83–99. DOI: 10.1016/j.aca.2009.10.041

Krystyna Pyrzynska, Selenium speciation in enriched vegetables, Food Chemistry 114 (2009) 1183–1191. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.11.026

Zoyne Pedrero, Yolanda Madrid, Novel approaches for selenium speciation in foodstuffs and biological specimens: A review, Anal. Chim. Acta, 634 (2009) 135–152. DOI: 10.1016/j.aca.2008.12.026

Jorge G. Ibanez, Alejandra Carreon-Alvarez, Maximiliano Barcena-Soto, Norberto Casillas, Metals in alcoholic beverages: A review of sources, effects, concentrations, removal, speciation, and analysis, J. Food Compos. Anal., 21 (2008) 672–683. DOI: 10.1016/j.jfca.2008.06.005

Krystyna Pyrzynska, Chemical speciation and fractionation of metals in wine, Chem, Speciation Bioavailability, 19/1 (2007) 1-8. DOI: 10.3184/095422907X198040

Stephen G. Capar, William R. Mindak, John Cheng, Analysis of food for toxic elements, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 389 (2007) 159–169. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-007-1433-6

Francesco Cubadda, Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry for the
Determination of Elements and Elemental Species in Food: A Review
, J. AOAC Int., 87/1 (2004) 173-204. DOI:10.1093/jaoac/87.1.173

J. Meija, S. Mounicou, J.A. Caruso, Plasma Spectrometry for Elemental Speciation and Characterization in Beverages, J. AOAC Int., 87/1 (2004) 205-224. DOI: 10.1093/jaoac/87.1.205

Related EVISA Resources

Brief summary: Tools for elemental speciation
Brief summary: ICP-MS - A versatile detection system for speciation analysis
Brief summary: LC-ICP-MS - The most often used hyphenated system for speciation analysis
Brief summary: GC-ICP-MS
Brief summary: CE-ICP-MS for speciation analysis
Brief summary: ESI-MS: The tool for the identification of species
Brief summary: Speciation Analysis - Striving for Quality
Brief summary: Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry as a Detection System for Speciation Analysis

Link page: All about food sciences
Link page: Analytical sciences resources
Link page: Atomic spectrometry resources
Link page: Molecular spectrometry resources
Link page: Mass spectrometry resources
Link page: Chromatography resources
Link page: Quality assurance/quality control resources

Material Database: Materials for the food sector
Material Database: Materials for speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Arsenic speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Mercury speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Selenium speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Tin speciation analysis

Related EVISA News (newest first)

October 14, 2023: New certified reference materials for the quality control of arsenic speciation in food products and biota
July 27, 2023: Optimization of speciation analysis of iodine in seaweed
June 14, 2023: FDA sets 10 ppb limit for inorganic arsenic in apple juice
April 12, 2023: Identification of Monomethylmonothioarsonic Acid as the Major Thioarsenical Generated During Extraction of Arsenic Species from Rice
March 11, 2023: Determination of Thallium Species in Food Samples by Microextraction and Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry  
February 14, 2023: Arsenic species in edible mushrooms from central Europe
January 9, 2023: Determination of Glyphosate in Rice with HPLC-ICP-MS/MS
  August 10, 2022: New arsenic compound found in rice: dimethyl-arsonyl-dimethyl-arsinic acid
May 12, 2022: Widespread Occurrence of the Highly Toxic Dimethylated Monothioarsenate in Rice
April 8, 2022: Selenium Speciation in Fortified Vegetables
February 14, 2022: Quantification of vanadium species in vanadium-fortified apples by liquid chromatography hyphenated with inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry
February 11, 2022: An easy way to selectively determine organomercury in seafood
January 10, 2022: Reducing mercury pollution entering lakes quickly lowers how much harmful mercury is found in fish
December 12, 2021: Arseno lipids in salmon are partly converted during cooking
August 16, 2021: Arsenic Species in Seaweeds Commercially Available in the United States 
July 7, 2021: Chromium speciation analysis in bread and breakfast cereals
February 8, 2021: Effect of cooking on the speciation of chromium in food
January 19, 2021: A universal method for the speciation analysis of arsenic in various seafoods
January 18, 2021: Mercury-binding proteins in tuna and salmon
November 10, 2020: New way of cooking rice removes arsenic and retains mineral nutrients, study shows
October 2, 2020: FDA Approves Inorganic Arsenic Limits in Baby Rice Cereal
August 12, 2020: Tin and mercury content and speciation in red wine from different countries

July 11, 2020: Quantification of copper chlorophylls in green table olives
June 8, 2020: Speciation analysis of aluminium in wine by LC-ICP-MS
May 11, 2020: Arsenic speciation analysis in rice milk
May 5, 2020: Half of the rice sold in the UK breaches limits on arsenic for children
February 19, 2020: Simultaneous speciation analysis of inorganic arsenic and methylmercury in edible fish oil by high-performance liquid chromatography–inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
February 17, 2020: Cyclic volatile methylsiloxanes in archived German freshwater fish samples covering a period of two decades
November 14, 2019: HPLC-ICPMS/MS as a versatile tool for the speciation of non-metals: Sulfur species in wine
September 17, 2019: Mercury contaminated freshwater fish from the NE United States: Where comes the mercury from ?
August 14, 2019: Climate change and overfishing are increasing toxic mercury levels in fish
August 12, 2019: Arsenic species in the Most Consumed Seafoods in the USA
January 15, 2019: Simultaneous selenium and sulfur speciation analysis in cultured mushrooms (Pleurotus pulmonarius) 

January 12, 2019: New Certified Reference Materials supporting the analysis of food supplements
December 17, 2018: Cadmium in chocolate: New EU regulation enter into force 1 January 2019
March 25, 2018: New CRM for trace metals in chocolate released (ERM-BD512)
July 18, 2017: Arsenic species in human milk
January 5, 2017: ERM-AE671: A new Certified Reference Material to make methylmercury measurements in food more reliable
November 13, 2016: Arsenic exposure from Poultry Meat produced in the US before 2015

August 24, 2016: New sensitive method for chromium speciation analysis: No hexavalent chromium in dairy and cereal products
January 8, 2016: New study reports evidence for carcinogenic chromium(VI) compounds in chromium(III)-treated living cells
October 15, 2015: High Levels of Arsenic in American Wines
September 17, 2015: Arsenic species in rice: A new Australian reference material
July 26, 2015: Researchers propose an improved cooking recipe to reduce worrying levels of arsenic in our rice
July 21, 2015: Polish selenium supplements not always labeled accurately
April 26, 2015: Hexavalent chromium in food ?
February 10, 2015: Capabilities of EU labs to determine inorganic arsenic in food have improved
January 18, 2015: Influence of culinary treatments of fish on its mercury content and speciation
October 19, 2014: EFSA: No evidence for essentiality of chromium
June 2, 2014: Methylmercury in fish: FDA updates its advice for consumers

March 11, 2014: Mercury in Fish: Groups Sue FDA for Seafood Health Information
November 16, 2013: EFSA publishes dietary reference value for manganese
November 14, 2013: Arsenic Speciation in Rice Cereals for Infants
July 15, 2013: New arsenic compounds found in herring
July 14, 2013: EU approves new selenium compound for use as a nutritional supplement in animals
May 15, 2013: Arsenic species in rice: Origin, uptake and geographical variation
Chromate in food samples: an artefact of wrongly applied analytical methodology
March 13, 2013: FDA rejects petition to change methylmercury standard in seafood
February 15, 2013: JRC-IRMM has released ERM-BC211 certified rice reference material for arsenic speciation analysis
January 14, 2013: Mercury Levels in Humans and Fish Around the World Regularly Exceed Health Advisory Levels
December 24, 2012: Mercury in food – EFSA updates advice on risks for public health
September 21, 2012: Arsenic in Rice : First results from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
July 31, 2012: FDA Lands in Court Over Mercury in Fish
June 17, 2012: Factors Affecting Methylmercury Accumulation in the Food Chain
May 23, 2012: EFSA calls for scientific data on chromium speciation and nickel levels in food and drinking water
January 19, 2012: Detecting Toxic Arsenic Species in Apple Juice
May 3, 2011: New reference materials for the characterisation of selenium-enriched food products
January 4, 2011: Arsenic species in rice: Call for analytical laboratories
September 16, 2010: Rice is the Major Pathway for Methylmercury Exposure in Inland China
May 19, 2010: China: Inorganic Arsenic in Rice - An Underestimated Health Threat ?
April 30, 2010: High Accumulation of Selenium in Wheat Grains
March 9, 2010: CEN calls for the development of standardised methods for the analysis of metal species in food
December 4, 2009: EFSA: Scientific Opinion on Arsenic in Food
November 15, 2009: Hexavalent chromium found in bread
August 21, 2009: USGS Study Reveals Mercury Contamination in Fish Nationwide
May 26, 2009: UK Food Standards Agency releases research on arsenic in rice milk
February 11, 2009: Mercury in Fish is a Global Health Concern
January 31, 2009: Using the right recipe for cooking rice reduces toxic inorganic arsenic content
December 2, 2008: High level of inorganic arsenic in blue mussels from Norwegian Fjords
November 11, 2008: EFSA calls for data on arsenic levels in food and water
November 11, 2008: EFSA calls for data on selenium and chromium
August 8, 2008: Arsenolipids in fish oil found by arsenic speciation analysis
April 30, 2008: Human exposure to organotin compounds via consumption of fish
March 15, 2008:Arsenic in rice milk exceeds EU and US drinking water standards
February 15, 2008: Arsenic speciation in rice: a question of the rice plant species
January 31, 2008: New arsenic species detected in carrot samples
December 26, 2007: The effect of thermal treatment on the arsenic speciation in food
March 11, 2007: Methylmercury contamination of fish warrants worldwide public warning
March 7, 2007: Elevated Arsenic Levels Found In Rice Grown In South Central States of the USA
October 24, 2006: A hard nut cracked: Brazil nuts’ selenium compounds identified
September 7, 2006: Toxic inorganic arsenic species found in Japanese seaweed food
August 16, 2006: Toxic antimony species found in beverages stored in PET containers
June 8, 2006: Methylmercury in fish: Can you cook it out ?
April 6, 2006: Testing finds: Arsenic added to feedstuff finds its way into chicken meat
October 6, 2005: Two new Thio-Arsenosugars found in Scallops
August 29, 2005: Is methyl mercury limiting the delight of seafood ? - To answer this question is a challenge for elemental speciation analysis
August 3, 2005: Surprisingly high concentrations of toxic arsenic species found in U.S. rice
April 27, 2005: Conflict raised in chicken arsenic debate
November 11, 2004: Source for butyltin compounds in wine
April 30, 2004: Size exclusion for element speciation in mushrooms
April 27, 2004: New kind of mercury found in fish

last time modified: December 13, 2023


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