Update of on-line coupled liquid chromatography – gas chromatography for the analysis of mineral oil hydrocarbons in foods and cosmetics
On-line coupled high performance liquid chromatography-gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (HPLC-GC-FID) is the most widely used method for the analysis of mineral oil hydrocarbons in food, food contact materials, tissues and cosmetics. With comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC), a tool became available for better establishing the elution sequence of the various types of hydrocarbons from the HPLC column used for isolating the mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) and mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH). The performance of a heavily used HPLC column with reduced retention for MOAH was investigated to improve the robustness of the method. Updates are recommended that render the MOSH/MOAH separation less dependent of the state of the HPLC column and more correct in cases of highly refined mineral oil products of high molecular mass. Cyclohexyl cyclohexane (Cycy), used as internal standard, turned out to be eluted slightly after cholestane (Cho); apparently the size exclusion effect predominates the extra retention by ring number on the 60 Å pore size silica gel. Hence, Cycy can be used to determine the end of the MOSH fraction. Long chain alkyl benzenes were eluted earlier than tri-tert. butyl benzene (Tbb). It is proposed to start the MOAH transfer immediately after the MOSH fraction and use a gradient causing breakthrough of dichloromethane (visible in the UV chromatogram) at a time suitable to elute perylene (Per) at the end of the fraction. In this way, a decrease in retention power of the HPLC column can be tolerated without adjustment of the MOAH fraction until some MOAH start being eluted into the MOSH fraction. This critical point can be checked either with di(2-ethylhexyl) benzene (DEHB) as a marker or the HPLC-UV chromatogram. Finally, based on new findings in rats and human tissues, it is recommended to integrate the MOSH and MOAH up to the retention time of the n-alkane C40.