Phenolic acids in foods: an overview of analytical methodology

J Agric Food Chem. 2003 May 7;51(10):2866-87. doi: 10.1021/jf026182t.


Phenolic acids are aromatic secondary plant metabolites, widely spread throughout the plant kingdom. Existing analytical methods for phenolic acids originated from interest in their biological roles as secondary metabolites and from their roles in food quality and their organoleptic properties. Recent interest in phenolic acids stems from their potential protective role, through ingestion of fruits and vegetables, against oxidative damage diseases (coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancers). High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) as well as gas chromatography (GC) are the two separation techniques reviewed. Extraction from plant matrixes and cleavage reactions through hydrolysis (acidic, basic, and enzymatic) are discussed as are the derivatization reagents used in sample preparation for GC. Detection systems discussed include UV-Vis spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, electrochemical, and fluorometric detection. The most common tandem techniques are HPLC/UV and GC/MS, yet LC/MS is becoming more common. The masses and MS fragmentation patterns of phenolic acids are discussed and tabulated as are the UV absorption maxima.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Food Analysis / methods*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Hydroxybenzoates / analysis*
  • Hydroxybenzoates / isolation & purification


  • Hydroxybenzoates
  • phenolic acid