Ensuring food safety requires a rapid and reliable method for detecting food-borne pathogens. Mass spectrometry has been demonstrated as a powerful tool to classify pure bacterial species. However, matrix interference from food backgrounds may lead to false results because of the suppression of microbial signals. It is useful to develop a method for bacterial enrichment and marker identification in food samples. Magnetic zirconia nanoparticles were used to concentrate spiked microorganisms from apple juice/lettuce under specific conditions (pH 4.5). Bacterial identification was achieved using nanoLC–MS. Selected reaction monitoring of bacteria-related peptides was applied for the first time to identify bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. This study presents an accurate means for bacterial identification in food matrixes using MS. The analysis time is less than 90 min and the minimum concentration of E. coli detected was 5 × 10 3 CFU/mL. The interaction between bacteria and the magnetic nanoparticles was electrostatic and nonspecific, in contrast to immunoassays which require specific antibodies. The targeted peptide analysis focuses on the bacterial markers, thus significantly simplifying the analysis and leading to an accurate identification of bacteria. © 2018

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