In this research article, fingerprinting strawberry aromas with Selective Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS), is more than 11 times faster than Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). The authors were able to accurately identify different cultivars by making many more measurements than before, overcoming uncertainty due to natural variations within cultivars. SIFT-MS is fast and has low detection limits for volatile organics. Measurements are directly taken with no sample preparation which produces results in seconds that are free of distortions due to sample preparation errors.
Aromas are important aspects of fresh produce and commonly contribute to the first experience a consumer has. First impressions matter. Ripeness and aroma fingerprint are both affected by variables such as time of harvest, type of cultivar, maturity of produce, mode of transport and postharvest storage. It is vital that the effect of these variables are well understood. However, aroma fingerprinting is a complex multi-dimensional field of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) where small changes between ripening stages are challenging to separate.
Researchers at KU Leuven have recently published the use of SIFT-MS for identifying VOCs associated with fresh produce. Strawberries were chosen as the proof-of-concept candidate as its aroma is one of its main quality traits. Fingerprinting strawberry aroma with SIFT-MS was 11 times faster than traditional GC-MS, as SIFT-MS has no sample preparation required due to its low VOC detection limits. This allowed many samples to be collected which overcome natural variation within a cultivar. Additionally, the lack of sample preparation in SIFT-MS reduced interferences such as aldehydes and alcohols and removed technical Solid Phase Micro Extraction (SPME) difficulties associated with GC-MS. Principle component analysis was applied to the results which showed both techniques were able to separate main stages of maturity, but GC-MS was not able to match the detail of SIFT-MS in characterising subtle ripening stages across the different cultivar. The ease of use and limited quantification challenges that SIFT-MS offers ultimately lead to minimal quantitative problems and an un-biased aroma profile.
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