When customers stand in front of a fruit and vegetables shelf in a supermarket or at a market stall, they have a choice. Do they buy, for example, standard apples or a variety from an organic orchard? If they decide in favour of an apple grown non-organically, they run the risk of ingesting harmful poisons together with the valuable vitamins when they eat them.
To combat pests, fruit and vegetables are sprayed with plant protection agents, less euphemistically called pesticides. As a consequence, pesticide residues remain in the foods and are eaten by consumers in their diet.Renato Zenobi, Professor of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Zurich and his team have developed a mass spectrometric method, enabling pesticide residues in foodstuffs to be detected quickly. Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique for the determination of the elemental composition of a sample or molecule. It means that the surfaces of objects of any kind can be analysed, and much quicker than before. Hi-Tech investigates.