Sources of errors in the quantitative analysis of food carotenoids by HPLC.
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Several factors render carotenoid determination inherently difficult. Thus, in spite of advances in analytical instrumentation, discrepancies in quantitative results on carotenoids can be encountered in the international literature. A good part of the errors comes from the pre-chromatographic steps such as: sampling scheme that does not yield samples representative of the food lots under investigation; sample preparation which does not maintain representativity and guarantee homogeneity of the analytical sample; incomplete extraction; physical losses of carotenoids during the various steps, especially during partition or washing and by adsorption to glass walls of containers; isomerization and oxidation of carotenoids during analysis. On the other hand, although currently considered the method of choice for carotenoids, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is subject to various sources of errors, such as: incompatibility of the injection solvent and the mobile phase, resulting in distorted or split peaks; erroneous identification; unavailability, impurity and instability of carotenoid standards; quantification of highly overlapping peaks; low recovery from the HPLC column; errors in the preparation of standard solutions and in the calibration procedure; calculation errors. Illustrations of the possible errors in the quantification of carotenoids by HPLC are presented.