Simultaneous determination of acidic pesticides in vegetables and fruits by liquid chromatography—tandem mass spectrometry

A sensitive and efficient method has been developed for the simultaneous determination of 73 multi-class acidic pesticides, such as phenoxy acid and sulfonylurea herbicides, in vegetables and fruits. The sample preparation procedure was carefully optimized for the efficient removal of co-extracted matrix components. The method involves extraction of acidic pesticides with acetonitrile containing hydrochloric acid, removal of water from crude extract by salting out, and sequential cleanup by octadecylsilyl silica gel and silica gel columns. For samples containing high amounts of pigments, such as spinach, additional cleanup using a graphitized carbon column was performed prior to liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) analysis. Recovery tests were performed for five times for each sample of cabbage, spinach, potato, eggplant, orange, and apple fortified at 0.01 mg kg−1. Out of the 73 tested pesticides, 70 for cabbage, 67 for spinach, 69 for potato, 67 for eggplant, 64 for orange, and 70 for apple were within the range of 70–120%, with relative standard deviations below 25%. Nitenpyram and pyrasulfotole showed low recoveries for all the samples tested, probably due to low recoveries from silica gel column. The developed method effectively removed co-extracted matrix components and was highly selective, with no interfering peaks found in the chromatograms of blank samples. The overall results indicate that the developed method is suitable for the quantitative analysis of acidic pesticide residues in vegetables and fruits.