Development of a new method for the analysis of cannabinoids in honey by means of high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionisation-tandem mass spectrometry detection.

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Fibre-type Cannabis sativa L. (hemp) represents a valuable resource in many different fields, including both the pharmaceutical and food ones. This plant contains non-psychoactive cannabinoids, a class of bioactive compounds biosynthesized in both female and male inflorescences. Among them, cannabidiol (CBD) is the most interesting compound from a medicinal point of view. Indeed, several scientific studies have proved its therapeutic potential in a large number of pathologies, in addition to its biological effects attributable to its antioxidant, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. The analysis of the amount of cannabinoids in food and food supplements represents a critical issue in the ambit of both the quality assurance and the dietary intake control of these biologically active compounds. In this ambit, a particular attention is necessary for apiary products, since they are widely consumed and they can be produced by bees starting from different floral sources. In the light of all the above, the aim of this study was to develop for the first time a new analytical method based on RP-HPLC with ESI-MS/MS detection for the determination of CBD and related cannabinoids in honey. A quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged and safe (QuEChERS) extraction procedure with an un-buffered method was selected and optimised as the more suitable protocol. As regards detection, it was carried out by using a linear ion trap quadrupole (QTRAP) mass analyser, operated in the multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode. Hemp male inflorescences and pollen were analysed in parallel by means of HPLC-UV/DAD, since bees can transfer pollen into their hives and, consequently, into beehive products. The method developed and validated for the first time in this work was finally applied to the analysis of cannabinoids in honey samples, thus demonstrating to be a useful tool for both quality control and safety assurance.

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