The application of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) is presented for the determination of five sulfonated azo dyes in chili powders. To circumvent problems related to spectral noise and overall poor precision, acid red 88 was used as internal standard and sample cleanup was performed via ion pairing of anionic species with benzyltributylammonium bromide (BTAB) and extraction into chloroform. The key parameters influencing analytical performance were BTAB concentration, pH of the aqueous phase, amount of sample and deposition technique, concentration of 9-aminoacridine (chemical matrix), number of instant spectra per laser shot, and the raster of laser movement. The highest sample load corresponded to 100 μL of water/methanol extract taken for extraction and the method quantification limits for sunset yellow (Y6), ponceau 2R (R5), allura red (R40), and amaranth (R2) were within the range 1.50-3.10 μg g-1 (29.0 μg g-1 for tartrazine, Y5). Two-point standard addition performed in three samples yielded percentage recoveries in the range 86.4-115%; the quantification results were consistent with those obtained by HPLC-DAD. Twelve chili powders were analyzed and the results for nine of them disagreed with information provided by the manufacturers; R40 was determined in seven products at concentrations from 32.5 ± 2.1 μg g-1 to 1125 ± 73 μg g-1; Y6 and Y5 were found at lower concentrations and in fewer samples. The MALDI-TOF MS procedure can be recommended for routine control of sulfonated azo dyes in food products as a memory-free, procedurally simple, high-throughput procedure with minimal costs of instrument operation. Outline of the proposed MALDI-TOF MS procedure.
Keywords: Food analysis; Internal standard; MALDI-TOF MS; Sulfonated azo dyes.