SPME Arrow for Acrylamide in Potato Chips

I love potato chips and I love the SPME Arrow. So, after talking with my colleague Joe Konschnik about taking advantage of the SPME Arrow to analyze acrylamide and other off-flavor compounds in potato chips; I immediately grabbed a bag of chips from my file cabinet (yes, I keep snacks readily at hand and I already confessed my love) and headed to the lab.

We originally set out to see if we could use the SPME Arrow to analyze acrylamide, as this compound has had a recent resurgence in the media. Acrylamide is a by-product of high temperature (i.e., >120 °C) cooking of specific food products [1]. Acrylamide is formed during the frying, baking, and roasting of starch-rich foods, such as potatoes and grains, in addition, acrylamide is often found in tobacco smoke. Therefore, acrylamide exposure is mostly inhalation and ingestion of certain foods. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified acrylamide as a Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans) compound [2]. Therefore, the European Commission published their Recommendation on the monitoring of acrylamide levels in food [3]; and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published their guidance to minimize human exposures to acrylamide [4].

The following work was carried out as a proof of concept experiment to evaluate the efficacy of utilizing SPME for acrylamide in various matrices. In particular, a headspace (HS)-SPME approach was desired, so as to minimize the sample preparation steps and solvents; and minimize the amount of matrix interference. Of course the SPME Arrow was utilized, as Colton and I have already demonstrated increased sensitivity with the SPME Arrow over traditional SPME fibers. The following figure and table provides the results and details (respectively) of analyzing the HS of ground potato chips.

So, my potato chips did not have a whole lot going on in the HS. In fact, ultimately, we had to fortify them with acrylamide at 0.5 µg/g. As you may have also seen and as expected, the SPME Arrow continues to give us more information over the traditional SPME fiber (no surprise there). Yes, a lot more work has to be done, but we were happy to see we could recover the spiked acrylamide from the chips as a proof of concept. Additionally, we were able to find 2,5-dimethylpyrazine, which is known for it’s off-flavor characteristics.

This story does not end here, as I happen to really love coffee and espresso even more than potato chips (yes, I have this in my office too. It really is quite nice). We have also started to look at ground coffee and brewed coffee headspace with the SPME Arrow as well. I will leave you with the following teaser c-gram generated with our new triple-phase SPME Arrow and brewed coffee HS, which is loaded with compounds. In particular, next time we will look at the furans we found. Till next time…



  1. WHO, Consultations and Workshops: Health Implications of Acrylamide in Food. 2002.
  2. IARC, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Vol. 60, Some Industrial Chemicals 1994.
  3. EU, COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION on the monitoring of acrylamide levels in food. Official Journal of the European Union. 3.6.2010.
  4. FDA, Guidance for Industry Acrylamide in Foods. 2016.



3 Responses to “SPME Arrow for Acrylamide in Potato Chips”

  1. Steve Pruskin says:

    You should probably put up a spoiler alert for those of us who don’t necessarily want to know that these things are in our coffee. :)

  2. N E One says:

    Of course, you realize that most foods methods require detection down to 10ppb. Have you tried this simple approach with a triple-quad? That would be the important determination. Most of the SPE methods suffer from erratic recovery and still heavily contaminate the columns (for GC methods) or detectors (for LCMS methods).

  3. Thanks for the comments Steve and NE.

    @N E One: Yes, we realize food methods require detection down to 10 ppb, hence why we started with 0.5 µg/g (0.5 ppbv). No, we have not tried a triple-quad, as we are hoping to be successful with a single quad method. With the use of SPME, we are anticipating to leave enough matrix behind, so that a triple quad is not necessary. Especially since offhand we seem to have enough sensitivity with the single quad. Again, we are hoping the use of SPME eliminates these issues of erratic recovery and heavy column contamination. Time will tell!

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