Identification and characterization of organic nanoparticles in food

Peters, R.; Dam, G. ten; Bouwmeester, H.; Helsper, J.P.F.G.; Allmaier, G.; Kammer, F. van den; Ramsch, R.; Solans, C.; Tomaniova, T.; Hajslova, J.; Weigel, S.


Interest in nanoparticles (NPs) has increased explosively over the past two decades. Using NPs, high loadings of vitamins and health-benefit actives can be achieved in food, and stable flavors as well as natural food-coloring dispersions can be developed. Detection and characterization of NPs are essential in understanding the benefits as well as the potential risks of the application of such materials in food. While many such applications are described in the literature, methods for detection and characterization of such particles are lacking. Organic NPs suitable for application in food are lipid-, protein- or polysaccharide-based particles, and this review describes current analytical techniques that are used, or could be used, for identification and characterization of such particles in food products. We divide the analytical approaches into four sections: sample preparation; separation; imaging; and, characterization. We discuss techniques and reported applications for NPs or otherwise related particle compounds. The results of this investigation show that, for a successful characterization of NPs in food, at least some kind of sample preparation will be required. While a simple sample preparation may be satisfactory for imaging techniques for known analytes, for other techniques, a further separation using chromatography, field-flow fractionation or ion-mobility separation is necessary. Subsequently, photon-correlation spectroscopy and especially mass spectrometry techniques as matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization combined with time-of-flight mass spectrometry, seem suitable techniques for characterizing a wide variety of organic NPs.