It’s demonstrated that the combination of benzoate salts with ascorbic acid produces low levels (ng/g) of benzene. Benzoates are widely used as food preservatives and especially beverages, like fruit-flavored soft drinks, suffer potentially for benzene formation. Benzene contamination was recently found also in benzoate free foods, especially in carrots products for infants. The chemical process that leads to benzene formation is still unclear: heat-treatments seem to have a key role, promoting the benzene release from suspected precursors (beta-carotene and terpenes).

Due to benzene high carcinogenic activity, its presence in food and beverages is of great concern. In particular, contamination in baby food is even more critical, since infants are more exposed to toxicity than adults. The new generation of Static Headspace Autosampler coupled to Fast GC-TOFMS system, is proposed for benzene contamination assessment in different food and beverages products. Besides a quick sample preparation offered by the static headspace technique, lower detection limit and outstanding repeatability are achieved.

Fast GC allows to complete the chromatographic run in 10 minutes, maintaining the required separation power and improving the sample throughput. The use of Fast GC enhances the potential of High Speed TOF-MS technology, in which the acquisition rate can be increased without sacrificing sensitivity or losing spectral information. High quality mass spectra and effective deconvolution algorithm guarantee a reliable identification, even in case of co-elution and matrix interferences. The obtained results confirm that the described system offers the specificity and sensitivity required to detect benzene in different food and beverages samples.

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