Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a very broad class of processing contaminants showing genotoxic and carcinogenic effects. For many years, high amounts of PAHs have been found in spices and dried herbs due to bad drying and smoking practices. Therefore, in 2015, European Commission (Reg. (EU) 1933/2015) fixed Maximal Residue Level (MRL) for PAHs in these matrices at 10 µg/kg for the benzo[a]pyrene and 50 µg/kg for the sum of four PAHs focused by the EU legislation (benzo[a]anthracene, chrysene, benzo[b]fluoranthene and benzo[a]pyrene). Although this legislation has been adopted 3 years ago, very few methods dedicated to PAHs analysis in spices and herbs have been found in the literature nor paper focused on the monitoring of this food category for the Belgian market. Hence, there was a need to validate a method to quantify these compounds and investigate to check the compliance of spices and dried herbs available on the Belgian market.
This work contains an exhaustive analysis of spices and dried herbs available on the Belgian market. 86 samples (44 spices and 42 dried herbs) have been purchased in April/May 2019 in local stores the most frequented by the Belgian population.
Samples have been analyzed by an in-house method specifically designed for these food categories and validated according to the EU regulation (Reg. (EU) 836/2011). Before extraction, 4 isotopic labelled internal standards are spiked. Then samples are extracted with a mixture of acetone/dichloromethane, followed by a purification based on solid phase extraction. The sorbent type depend on the nature of the matrix considered. Then samples are injected on a gas chromatographic system coupled to a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer.
Firsts results shows that PAHs contamination is very variable throughout samples analyzed. No trends has been observed yet between the two groups spices and dried herbs nor between the different subclasses of spices/herbs. Some samples contain no PAHs higher the individual detection limit (0.5 ng/g) and only one sample exceed slightly the EU legislation. Regarding preliminary results, PAHs contamination of spices and dried herbs seems not to be a concern for consumers in Belgium.