Protocol for an electrospray ionization tandem mass spectral product ion library: development and application for identification of 240 pesticides in foods

Anal Chem. 2012 Jul 3;84(13):5677-84. doi: 10.1021/ac300844d. Epub 2012 Jun 21.


Modern determination techniques for pesticides must yield identification quickly with high confidence for timely enforcement of tolerances. A protocol for the collection of liquid chromatography (LC) electrospray ionization (ESI)-quadruple linear ion trap (Q-LIT) mass spectrometry (MS) library spectra was developed. Following the protocol, an enhanced product ion (EPI) library of 240 pesticides was developed by use of spectra collected from two laboratories. A LC-Q-LIT-MS workflow using scheduled multiple reaction monitoring (sMRM) survey scan, information-dependent acquisition (IDA) triggered collection of EPI spectra, and library search was developed and tested to identify the 240 target pesticides in one single LC-Q-LIT MS analysis. By use of LC retention time, one sMRM survey scan transition, and a library search, 75-87% of the 240 pesticides were identified in a single LC/MS analysis at fortified concentrations of 10 ng/g in 18 different foods. A conventional approach with LC-MS/MS using two MRM transitions produced the same identifications and comparable quantitative results with the same incurred foods as the LC-Q-LIT using EPI library search, finding 1.2-49 ng/g of either carbaryl, carbendazim, fenbuconazole, propiconazole, or pyridaben in peaches; carbendazim, imazalil, terbutryn, and thiabendazole in oranges; terbutryn in salmon; and azoxystrobin in ginseng. Incurred broccoli, cabbage, and kale were screened with the same EPI library using three LC-Q-LIT and a LC-quadruple time-of-flight (Q-TOF) instruments. The library search identified azoxystrobin, cyprodinil, fludioxinil, imidacloprid, metalaxyl, spinosyn A, D, and J, amd spirotetramat with each instrument. The approach has a broad application in LC-MS/MS type targeted screening in food analysis.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Databases, Factual
  • Food Analysis / methods*
  • Ions / analysis
  • Pesticides / analysis*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*


  • Ions
  • Pesticides