Lessons in food safety from an astounding 15 year old SCIEX user
Liesl Krone has proven that food safety is a topic of interest to consumers of all ages. Last year, in March of 2013, Liesl, an 8th grader at Acton Middle School in Granbury, Texas, US, entered her research project titled "What Pesticides Have You Eaten Today?" in the 62nd Fort Worth Regional Science Fair, placing second and advancing her to the Exxon Mobile Texas Science and Engineering Fair held in San Antonio, Texas, in late March 2013.
Liesl went on to present her work at the North American Chemical Residue Workshop (NACRW) in July 2013, an international conference where food safety researchers and experts join annually to discuss trends & topics in food & environmental testing. Liesl met Steve Lehotay & Michelangelo Anastassiades, the pioneers of the QuEChERS sample preparation technique for the analysis of pesticides in foods (which Liesl utilized for her studies), and she was able to engage in discussions that ultimately led her to win favorite poster presentation at the conference! (Figure 1)
Figure 1: Liesl presenting her poster at the NACRW conference in 2013 to Steve Lehotay & Michelangelo Anastassiades, the pioneers of the QuEChERS extraction procedure for pesticide residue testing in foods.
In early 2014, Liesl embarked on a follow-up study to her award winning 2013 poster, with a focus on analyzing the difference between imported produce & locally grown produce to identify which contained higher levels of chemical residues. Her work advanced her to the Intel International Science Fair, in early May 2014.So what did Liesl learn in these studies? Liesl's first project in 2013 presented some very interesting findings, including the detection of a pesticide on grapes that is not allowed for use in the US (the grapes were interestingly noted as a product of Peru), and that washing grapes with water did not reduce their pesticide content. Liesl also learned that in the case of oranges and bananas, the majority of the pesticides are found in the peels (although she did detect some pesticides in the pulp as well), so consuming contaminants can easily be avoided for fruits that must be peeled. Her insightful conclusion: "It is still better to eat fruit than junk food but maybe we need to eat fewer grapes!"
In her follow-up project in 2014 ('Stay home or go global - local vs. imported fruit?'), Liesl tested US vs. non-US grown produce, and compared the pesticide residues found for those labeled as 'organic' vs. 'conventional'. She learned that just because a product is labeled organic does not mean it is truly organic - the pears she tested originating in the US contained a number of pesticide residues! She also found that in the case of grapes, US grown grapes contained more chemical residues than the imported ones. Her conclusion: It doesn't matter where the produce came from, but the real issue is, "Is it really organic?"
Liesl plans to present her findings at the NACRW conference in 2014 in St. Pete Beach. Perhaps a reprisal of the favorite poster win? Liesl truly shows that food safety (and even mass spec!) can be important for consumers of all ages. Liesl's work was supported by Restek (who provided sampel preparation support) and the food testing experts at Analytical Food Laboratories in Grand Prairie, Texas. AFL brings together highly qualified technicians in microbiological, chemical, nutritional, and physical analysis for the analysis of a wide array of foods, water, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical products, utilizing procedures that comply with official methodologies. Learn more about AFL
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