The determination of free volatile fatty acids (FVFA) is of interest in the analysis of cheeses. As these compounds are components of taste and flavor, they give indications on metabolic reactions taking place during cheese ripening and can provide an evaluation of cheese defects and their causes. One of the most widely used methods for the determination of FVFA in cheese involves preliminary recovery from the matrix by steam distillation, followed by gas chromatography separation. Relatively high distillate volumes must be collected to achieve a quantitative yield of all the compounds of interest, so that, as a result, the solution is too diluted to achieve good instrumental sensitivity. In this paper, an alternative method for the determination of C2-C6 free carboxylic acids in cheeses involving the use of a Nukol capillary column and crotonic acid as internal standard is described. This method is quick and cheap, as the sample preparation is a simple extraction with water. The underivatized FVFA are then directly separated by gas chromatography. Using this method, all FVFA in cheeses can be quantified with good repeatability and excellent recovery.
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