Recently several papers were published in highly ranked journals on the presence of Cr(VI) in tea infusions, bread samples and plants. These statements were made on the basis of determination of total Cr concentrations in alkaline and aqueous sample extracts by ETAAS, without applying any speciation analysis. If Cr(VI) really exists in bread samples and tea infusions, consumption of bread and tea would represent long-term chronic exposure to Cr(VI) and a health threat for the majority of the human population. It is well accepted that due to the presence of organic matter foodstuffs of plant and animal origin cannot contain Cr(VI). Therefore, to show that the reported data on the presence of Cr(VI) in foodstuffs are an artefact of inappropriately applied analytical methodology, investigation of speciation was carried out by high performance liquid chromatography-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (HPLC-ICP-MS). 50Cr(VI) and 53Cr(III) stable isotopes were used to follow species interconversions during the extraction procedures. Separated Cr species eluted from the column were followed at m/z 50, 52 and 53. The high sensitivity of the HPLC-ICP-MS method (LOD for m/z 52, 0.03 μg Cr(VI) L−1) enabled reliable determination of Cr(VI) at concentration levels that were much lower than the total Cr content present in sample extracts. The speciation analysis data demonstrated that in all samples analysed Cr(VI) concentrations were below the LOD. In tea infusions 50Cr(VI) was almost completely reduced due to the presence of antioxidants, while the high content of organic matter in bread appreciably reduced 50Cr(VI) even in highly alkaline (pH 12) bread extracts. The data confirmed that Cr(VI) does not exist in foodstuffs of plant origin and provided some conclusive evidence that the same can be expected for foods of animal origin.
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