Fatty acids obtained from triglycerides (trioelin, tripalmitin), foods (milk, corn oil), and phospholipids (phosphotidylcholine, phosphotidylserine, phosphatidic acid) upon alkaline hydrolysis were observed directly without derivatization by graphite plate laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GPLDI-TOFMS). Mass-to-charge ratios predicted for sodium adducts of expected fatty acids (e.g. palmitic, oleic, linoleic and arachidonic acids) were observed without interference. Although at present no quantitation is possible, the graphite plate method enables a simple and rapid qualitative analysis of fatty acids. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.