Exploring flavour release and flavour perception through a direct injection mass spectrometry approach

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are key drivers of food perceived quality during consumption and they are of great economic relevance since they can provide relevant information on biological, legal, safety, quality and value aspects [1,2]. Since these compounds are constantly released by food products and most industrial processes affect food VOCs fingerprint, their analysis seems a promising tool to support agro-industrial quality control.  

During my PhD I am applying direct injection mass spectrometry both through headspace and in vivo analysis. In particular, through headspace analysis of different raw materials we would like to verify the suitability of Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) as technology to be applied in industrial quality control programs to support sensory analysis.

On the other hand, by using VOCs analysis in real time through both nose space and breath analysis we measured exhaled metabolites from human breath for medical diagnosis and volatile release from foods and fragrances to investigate the connection between VOCs release and sensory perception [3].

PTR-MS is a relative new technique that is ideal for in vivo aroma analysis due to its sensitivity, dynamic on-line capability and rapid response time [4]. Both PTR-Qi-ToF-MS and PTR-ToF-MS coupled with a multipurpose auto-samplers will be used during the project. Analytical data will then be correlated with GC-MS data and/or sensory analysis to build quality predictive models.

1. Biasioli, F., et al., Direct-injection mass spectrometry adds the time dimension to (B)VOC analysis. Trac-Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 2011. 30(7): p. 1003-1017.

2. Lindinger, C., et al., Unambiguous identification of volatile organic compounds by proton-transfer reaction mass spectrometry coupled with GC/MS. Analytical Chemistry, 2005. 77(13): p. 4117-4124.

3. Avison, S.J., Real-time flavour analysis: optimization of a Proton-Transfer-Mass Spectrometer and comparison with an Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometer with an MS-Nose interface. J. of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2013, 61,p.  2070−2076

4. Heenan S. et al.,  PTR-TOF-MS monitoring of in vitro and in vivo flavour release in cereal bars with varying sugar composition. Food Chemistry, 2012, 131(2), p. 477-484.