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Rapid detection of toxic hydrogen cyanide in Macadamia using Selected Ion Flow Tube-Mass Spectrometry

Research Scholar

Hardy Castada, research chemist, University of the Philippines (Philippines)
Sheryl Barringer, faculty mentor


  • Hometown: Quezon City, Philippines
  • Degrees received: Bachelor of Science in chemistry, University of the Philippines, Philippines; Master of Science in chemistry, The Ohio State University, United States; PhD in food science and technology, The Ohio State University, United States.

What is the issue or problem addresses in your research?

Macadamia-based commercial products have rapidly increased in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. This could largely be due to the reported health benefits and antioxidant properties associated with the bioactive compounds in Macadamia.

Macadamia, however, contain cyanogenic glycosides that can hydrolyze and produce toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and therefore could pose a safety risk. Thus, the rapid analysis of HCN and its detoxification in Macadamia are of vital importance.

What methodology did you use in your research?

Macadamia flowers, husks, leaves, and nuts were either freeze-dried or air-dried, defatted, grounded, and sifted prior to HCN analysis. The samples were subjected to different heating temperature, time and pH to empirically determine the optimum conditions for the in vitro hydrolysis of cyanogenic glycosides and maximum release of HCN. The subsequent HCN production was rapidly and directly analyzed in the headspace using Selected Ion Flow Tube-Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS).

What are the purpose/rationale and implications of your research?

This study aims to determine the optimum conditions for the hydrolysis of cyanogenic glycosides and subsequent high throughput detection of the toxic HCN in Macadamia using SIFT-MS. This study provides helpful insights to the effective processing and detoxification of HCN from different parts of Macadamia and ultimately toward the safe production of Macadamia-based products especially as ingredients in food and beverages.