(Un)Natural pharmaceuticals in food supplements

Food supplements are a wide variety of herbal preparations, capsules and tablets, with or without a specific therapeutic indication. They are produced by many manufacturers and sold through different channels including internet. There is relatively little control on the quality and safety of food supplements. This causes a possible risk to the consumer because natural levels of bioactive substances may vary considerably and products may be contaminated with other toxicants. In addition, cases of adulteration of natural food supplements with synthetic pharmaceuticals have been reported. The number of natural bioactive substances, contaminants, and potential adulterants is enormous. This makes the quality and safety control of food supplements a very challenging task.

Contact: Hans Mol (
Cluster: Natural Toxins & Pesticides (NTP)
Date: 2014

The aim of the internship project is to contribute to the qualitative and quantitative method development for screening and confirmatory quantitative determination of both natural bioactive substances and (synthetic) adulterants in food supplements.

Main techniques

For assessment of quality and safety of food supplements several instrumental analytical approaches are being used, typically chromatography with various types of mass spectrometry (LC-full scan high resolution MS, LC-MS/MS, GC-full scan MS, GC-MS/MS) and NMR. With the full scan approaches automated data processing is a key aspect of the method.

Depending on the experience of the student, the duration of the internship and the interest of the student, the focus may be on a specific platform, on a specific substance class, or on non-target screening.       

What we are asking

  • Enthusiastic student with a background in analytical chemistry (HLO, MSc, PhD research stay)
  • Basic knowledge of chromatography and mass spectrometry, and/or NMR
  • Available for a period of at least three months 

What we offer

Expert guidance during the internship in a state-of-the art food/feed safety laboratory.