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Did You Know QuEChERS Was Made to be Modified?

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The QuEChERS sample extraction and cleanup approach has been successfully applied to a wide variety of analytes and sample matrices that extend far beyond the pesticides in high water content fruits and vegetables that were first used to demonstrate the technique. Looking for pharmaceuticals in fish or carcinogens in dried tea? These are just a few examples of how, with a few modifications, the QuEChERS approach can be adapted to meet your analytical challenges. Remember, QuEChERS isn’t any one specific method, it’s an approach, and its relatively quick and easy to see if it’s the right approach for you. And, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. 

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If you’re familiar with the analysis of pesticides in food, you’re probably also familiar with “QuEChERS,” the sample preparation approach that lives up to its unique name.And, with official methods published by a variety of organizations, it would be easy to see QuEChERS as a prescriptive procedure…a set of fixed steps, already outlined, just waiting to be followed. But…is it really?

Well, it might be, if your matrices and analytes fall within the scope of an already validated method, but if they don’t, it’s important to know that QuEChERS was conceived of as an approach to sample extraction and cleanup, not a fixed set of steps that everyone should follow.

QuEChERS was originally demonstrated with high water content fruits and vegetables, but in the years since its introduction, people have found ways to make it work for everything from analyzing pharmaceuticals in fresh fish to monitoring mycotoxins in beer to looking for pesticides in dried botanicals. QuEChERS was made to be modified.

For example, when we were evaluating pesticide screening procedures for oranges in our lab, it was easy to quickly test different commercially available cleanup options and discover a clear winner when it came to pesticide recoveries. And since QuEChERS is so adaptable, we even tried analyzing the peel separate from the pulp to further improve recoveries, and it worked!

And people have continued to adapt the QuEChERS approach beyond high water content commodities.​ How about dried samples, like potato chips? Since water is very important for the analyte partitioning processes, we just need to add water because the sample doesn’t have enough on its own. And when people started applying QuEChERS to fatty matrices, new cleanup materials were explored, and people tried techniques like using hexane to remove fat from the sample.

Looking for carcinogenic PAHs in dried tea? Well, in that case, even the choice of extraction solvent can be changed to improve PAH recoveries. All of these examples serve to illustrate that QuEChERS is quick, easy, and cheap enough to allow you to be flexible and try out different options to see which one works best for your application.

See? QuEChERS was made to be modified. So, get out there and join the wide community of scientists making QuEChERS their own by modifying it to suit their needs. And if you have any questions along the way, we’re here to help.

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