Analytical methods for food control are mainly focused on restricted lists of well-known contaminants. This paper shows that liquid chromatography-high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC/ESI-HRMS) associated with the data mining tools developed for metabolomics can address this issue by enabling (i) targeted analyses of pollutants, (ii) detection of untargeted and unknown xenobiotics, and (iii) detection of metabolites useful for the characterization of food matrices. A proof-of-concept study was performed on 76 honey samples. Targeted analysis indicated that 35 of 83 targeted molecules were detected in the 76 honey samples at concentrations below regulatory limits. Furthermore, untargeted metabolomic-like analyses highlighted 12 chlorinated xenobiotics, 1 of which was detected in lavender honey samples and identified as 2,6-dichlorobenzamide, a metabolite of dichlobenil, a pesticide banned in France since 2010. Lastly, multivariate statistical analyses discriminated honey samples according to their floral origin, and six discriminating metabolites were characterized thanks to the MS/MS experiments.
Keywords: bees; data mining; electrospray; food analysis; high-resolution mass spectrometry; honey; liquid chromatography; metabolite; metabolomics; multiresidue; pesticides; pollutants; veterinary drugs; xenobiotics.