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Rapid and facile detection of four date rape drugs in different beverages utilizing proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS)


  • This article is part of the Journal of Mass Spectrometry special issue entitled “2nd MS Food Day” edited by Gianluca Giorgi.

Philipp Sulzer, IONICON Analytik GmbH. Eduard-Bodem-Gasse 3, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria. E-mail:


In this work, we illustrate the application of proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) in the field of food and drink safety. We present proof-of-principle measurements of four different drinks (water, tea, red wine and white wine) each spiked separately with four different date rape drugs (chloral hydrate, tricholorethanol, γ-butyrolactone and butanediol). At first, the ideal PTR-MS operating conditions (reduced electric field strength and monitoring the most abundant [fragment] ion) for detection of the drugs were determined utilizing a time-of-flight-based PTR-MS instrument. We then dissolved small quantities of the drugs (below the activation threshold for effects on humans) into the various types of drinks and detected them using a quadrupole-based PTR-MS instrument via two different sampling methods: (1) dynamic headspace sampling and (2) direct liquid injection. Both methods have their advantages and drawbacks. Only with dynamic headspace sampling can rape drug contaminations be detected within a timeframe of seconds, and therefore, this method is the most promising use of PTR-MS as a fast, sensitive and selective monitor for the detection of food and drink contamination. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.