Semicarbazide is a minor thermal decomposition product of azodicarbonamide used in the gaskets of certain food jars
Evidence is presented for the first time showing that semicarbazide (SEM) is a minor thermal decomposition product of the blowing agent azodicarbonamide (ADC). A novel direct analytical method based on liquid chromatography electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESIMS/MS) has been developed to determine SEM in foamed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) seals of metal lids, as well as in commercially available ADC. The direct LC-MS/MS method for gaskets entails extraction of the gaskets in hot water, addition of (15N213C)-SEM as internal standard, and injection of an aliquot directly into the LC-MS system, achieving good sensitivity (S/N = 348 for 2 ng injected on-column) and monitoring three characteristic mass transitions (m/z 76 → 31; 76 → 44; 76 → 59). Semicarbazide can be detected in thermally treated ADC, reaching up to 0.93 mmol mol−1 at 220 °C, as determined by the direct LC-MS/MS method. This new method is also compared to the classical derivatization method using 2-nitrobenzaldehyde (2-NBA) that is routinely employed to determine SEM as an indicator of the usage of the antimicrobial drug nitrofurazone, the use of which is not authorized in the European Union (EU). Both methods revealed proportional results, with approx. 3-fold higher levels recorded by the direct SEM approach, probably due to differences in the extraction procedures used. A limited survey of plastic seals from used press twist and twist-off metal lids on food jars (non-foamed and foamed) revealed levels of SEM ranging from 2 to 8689 µg kg−1 (average = 1593 µg kg−1, n = 57 determinations).