An Interview with Laszlo Torma

By Wendy Rasmussen

With Laszlo retiring on December 12th, I thought it would be fun to do a short interview with him to learn a bit about his experiences and his plans for retirement. We have all really enjoyed working with him over the years and even though we’re a little sad to a friend leave the company, we’re also very happy and excited that Laszlo and his wife Sondra can enjoy all the wonderful things about living in Montana –skiing, viewing wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and delicious steak dinners all come to mind…

Laszlo Torma enjoys the sights and sounds of "Venice"

Laszlo officially joined Pickering in July of 2002 as Director of Technical Relations, but we knew him even before then. He worked at the Montana Department of Agriculture for 35 years (from 1965-2000), where he was one of Pickering’s best customers. I remember meeting Laszlo for the first time at a Midwest AOAC meeting in 2000. Very soon after I came to admire his love and respect for the science and the people.  I have learned a great deal from him over the years.

WR: What do you look forward to most in retirement?
LT: Relaxing and trying to learn more about computers. Hopefully still be able to go skiing


WR: How did you get started in science?
LT: My uncle was a veterinarian who enjoyed toxicology. Whenever I had a chance (that is, not going to soccer camp or playing) I was around him, “helping” him. He directed me toward the sciences like toxicology and chemistry.

WR: Favorite city/state/location to travel
LT: I have to be selfish and say Budapest (laughing)  But in the US, New Orleans is always fun

WR: What was the most unusual test/sample/situation in the lab?
LT: Stomach contents.  And sometimes we received Grizzly bear saliva to test. It was part of a forensic case to determine whether the bear had been poisoned with strychnine. Some of the bears had indeed been poisoned.

WR: What are one or two of your accomplishments which you are most proud of?
LT: At the time when I joined Pickering, somebody had started false rumors about the company which were saying that we were closing shop; successfully put that to rest. I worked hard to put Pickering “back on the map”.  Also, the activities with AOAC, the state Ag labs, and also EPA & FDA activities. Of our activities with AOAC, I am especially proud of our Award for our Single Laboratory Validation of the Year (for Multi-Residue Mycotoxin analysis). We worked very hard on that.DSC_7505

WR: How did you meet Michael Pickering and how did you become a Pickering customer?
LT: I met Michael at one of the Midwest AOAC Meetings in the late 1990s. Laszlo_Michael_MWAOAC
Nancy Thiex, who was with South Dakota State University at the time, introduced me to him. We had a homemade Post Column derivatization system which was large and cumbersome. After talking with Michael, we decided to purchase Pickering systems for carbamates and amino acid analysis.

WR: What is your fondest memory of working with Pickering Labs?
LT: Working with all of you. Overall we had a very good relationship and I enjoyed working with most of the peopleMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

WR: Who will keep us company at the Tiki Hut in Florida?
LT: (Laughs) You carry that torch very well. Just think of me when you’re there

Even though officially Laszlo has retired, he promises to keep in touch between ski runs.  Feel free to contact him directly until January 10, 2015. His email is

Wendy, Maria, Mike, David, Saji, and Rebecca are committed to carry on Laszlo’s good work and will continue to stay active at the meetings within the analytical chemistry community.  We certainly have some very big shoes to fill!

Here’s to a very happy, long and healthy retirement for Laszlo!

All the best,
You can also contact me with any questions:


Pass the Bubbly

By Michael Pickering

I first had the pleasure of knowing Laszlo through our mutual involvement with AOAC (far longer ago than I’m willing to admit).  I admired his technical knowledge, and the excellent ways in which he represented the interests of his home state of Montana, his lab there, and the AOAC organization as a whole.

Laszlo first started working for Pickering Labs twelve years ago, and my professional admiration for him blossomed into a lasting friendship.  My wife and I have many fond memories of visiting Napa and Yellowstone with Laszlo and his wife Sondra, and over the years we have had the pleasure of hosting them several delightful times in our home.

Laszlo has been a valuable member of our team here at Pickering, too.  His insight is bubblyunmatched, and we have benefited so much from his tireless travel on our behalf.  I have always known that Pickering Labs is well represented by Laszlo, and I particularly enjoyed traveling with him to AOAC International 2009 in Philadelphia and watching him work firsthand.

So, I propose a toast to Laszlo Torma!  Congratulations on your retirement!  You will be greatly missed, and thank you for your hard work and warm friendship.


The Pickering team raise a glass to Lazlo on Friday, December 12, 2014:

Champagne for Laszlo(L to R): Jim, Wendy, Fidel, Sareeta, Mike, Michael, Ed, Tony, Anita, Maria, Gloria, Rebecca, Diana, Gabriela, Severo, Jay, Saji, and David (behind the camera)

Simultaneous Analysis of B Vitamins in Protein Powders and Supplements

Our New Method Abstract, MA 239, describes the Simultaneous Analysis of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6 using post-column derivatization.

B vitamins are a group of water soluble vitamins that play an important role in cell metabolism. This group consists of a number of compounds including Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin and Nicotinamide (Vitamin B3) and Pyridoxine and Pyridoxal (Vitamin B6). B vitamins are found in plant and animal food sources, such as legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, red meat and poultry. Many commercial food products are fortified with vitamin B complex and people could take multi-vitamins supplements to help fight vitamin B deficiencies.

Pickering Laboratories offers a method for simultaneous determination of Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6 in supplements and protein powders. The method uses chemical and photochemical post-column derivatization with Fluorescence detection that increases sensitivity and selectivity of analysis. Photochemical derivatization required for Niacin and Nicotinamide and chemical derivatization is needed for Thiamine. Vitamins B2 and B6 have natural fluorescence.Mixed B Vitamins Chromatograms

METHOD Overview. (to download the complete Method Abstract click HERE)
Instrument set up

Connect the instruments in the following order:
– Pinnacle PCX post-column derivatization instrument
– UVE™ photochemical reactor
– Fluorescence detector

Sample Preparation
For protein powders:
To 0.5 g of samples add 50 mL of extraction buffer (0.1 N NaOH adjusted to pH 2 with Phosphoric acid). Homogenize using hand held homogenizer for 30 sec and heat on a water bath at 100 ºC for 30 min. Cool the solution down, filter through 0.45 um nylon filter and inject. Protect from light.

For multi-vitamins supplements tablets:
Blend at least 10 tablets to a fine powder and mix the entire sample thoroughly. Weigh 250 mg of sample and add 90 mL of DI water acidified to pH 2.6 with 0.1 N HCl. Stir using magnetic stirring plate for 2 hours, protecting from light. Make the volume up to 100 mL with acidified water. Filter the sample through a 0.45 um nylon filter and inject. Protect from light.

Analytical Conditions
Analytical Column: Thermo Hypersil, Aquasil C18 (4.6×150 mm)
Column Temperature: 40 ºC
Flow Rate: 1 mL/min
Mobile Phase:
Solvent A: Potassium Phosphate Monobasic in DI water, adjusted with KOH, brought to 1L DI water.
Solvent B: Acetonitrile.

Post-column Conditions
Post-column Derivatization System: Pinnacle PCX and UVE Photochemical Reactor
Reactor Volume: 0.5 mL
Reactor Temperature: 30 ºC
Reagent: Sodium Hydroxide in DI water, with Sodium Sulfite
Detection: FLD


Artificial Perspiration Buyers Guide

pt-home-image-2By David Mazawa

How do I choose the artificial perspiration that’s right for me?

Makers of smart watches, high performance textiles, biosensors, heads up displays, and fitness monitors all have one thing in common – the need to test their products for quality assurance. Personal electronics and wearable technology manufacturers perform sweat testing on materials including touch screens, watchbands, keyboards, eyeglasses, and any other product material or surface that would benefit from guaranteed reproducible results with artificial perspiration. By using Pickering Laboratories’ artificial eccrine perspiration, our customers are able to save time and ensure the same repeatable results anywhere, anytime.

Normally,a sweat mimic is prepared at the time of the test according to an industry specific formula. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) describes procedures to test many products in the presence of a sweat mimic. According to Michael Pickering, Founder/Owner of Pickering Laboratories, “we were guided by the multiplicity of such tests to develop an artificial perspiration that can yield reproducible results independent of the test.”

Pickering Artificial Eccrine Perspiration is the closest mimic available to acld--perspiration-grouptual eccrine perspiration, and we prepare two versions. The stabilized version has a preservative which prevents microbial growth and can then be stored at room temperature. The non stabilized version has no preservative and must be kept frozen until you intend to use it. You may need this version if you are testing a product that claims to prevent microbial growth or odor from perspiration. Our Artificial Eccrine Perspiration normally comes at pH 4.5, however, we can make it custom from pH 3.0 – 9.0.

1700-0020 – Sweat, Stabilized 1700-0022 – Sweat, Not Stabilized
1700-0021 – Sweat, custom pH, Stabilized 1700-0023 – Sweat custom pH, Not Stabilized

Are you required to follow a specific testing method? If so, we may already carry the exact artificial perspiration formula for that particular method. If you don’t see it on this list, please contact us with a copy of your method and we will investigate making it for you.

Testing Methods:
ISO 3160
ISO 105-B07
AATCC Test Method 15
ISO 1164
ISO 12870
DN 53160-2
BS EN 1811

Please email us at or call (650) 694-6700 with any questions you may have.

Our Product Testing Solutions products can now also be found on!

David Mazawa
Technical Support Chemist

Chromatography Quiz #18

xmas candiesChromatography Quiz #17 Results

We would like to congratulate our grand prize winners of our last newsletter’s Glyphosate chromatogram quiz: Tom Schneider from the Suffolk County Water Authority, Hossein Hajipour from Texas Department of State Health Services Environmental Division, Helene Lachance from Shur-Gain Nutreco, June Black from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Narjes Ghafoori from LA County Environmental Toxicology Laboratory, Jason Yang from Ameritech, Joy Gottlieb from New Mexico Department of Health Scientific Lab Division, and Jim Balk from DHHS Public Health Environmental Laboratory!

They have each won and will shortly be receiving: The Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates Holiday Collection!  This collection of chocolates features a festive assortment of flavors inspired by the holiday season.  Enjoy!

We would like to thank all of you for your submissions!

The correct answer for the troubleshooting chromatogram: We switched the reagents when running the Glyphosate chromatogram, putting the GA104/OPA/Thiofluor reagent first and the GA116/hypochlorite reagent second.  For Glyphosate analysis, the post-column reaction is two-stage. In the first stage, Glyphosate is oxidized by hypochlorite to Glycine. In the second stage, Glycine reacts with OPA and Thiofluor to produce a highly fluorescent isoindole. Without the first hypochlorite reaction, Glyphosate was unable to react and produce the fluorescent isoindole, and no peak appeared.  Since AMPA does not need the initial oxidation to react with OPA, we still see the AMPA peak.  And since oxidation reduces its fluorescent yield, we actually see a slightly larger than normal peak for AMPA.

Due to the typo on the last quiz, which originally gave the wrong reactor temperature, we understandably got a lot of responses indicating the problem was Reactor 1 temperature (prizes also awarded for this answer).  It made us curious – what does a Glyphosate chromatogram look like with a 100°C reactor?  How would it compare to the chromatogram we published?  So, we ran a couple of chromatograms, and here you can compare the two problems.

Original Troubleshooting Chromatogram (Switching Reagents):glyphosate troubleshooting chromatogram quiz 17

Comparison Bad Chromatogram (Reactor at 100°C):glyphosate chromatogram 2

Reference Chromatogram:glyphosate reference chromatogram quiz 17

We thought this was an interesting exercise.  Hopefully you did to!

Thank you!
Pickering Labs

Chromatography Quiz #18: Applications Puzzle!

Complete the Word Search Puzzle below and win a prize!  Simply email your answer as well as your full contact information to Rebecca at by February 1st, 2015 in order to win.  You will receive email confirmation that your submission has been received.  The answer to the puzzle and winner congratulations will be published in the next issue (to be anonymous, please notify Rebecca in submission).

You can download the pdf version of the Word Search Here: Quiz #18 Word Search

word search

Update on Pickering Activities

Since October, we’ve traveled across North America and to China to bring awareness to some of our new markets and products, as well as created some new application notes and posters:

Las Vegas, NV
Supplyside West and AHPA’s Botanical Congress

The SupplySide West meeting and Expo is held in Las Vegas every year. This year it was held at Manadalay Bay Resort & Casino from October 6-10. Laszlo, Saji and I were on hand to present our systems and applications for the Natural Products industry.  Our  applications on Amino Acids, Vitamins, Antioxidants, Mycotoxins, and Glyphosate, among other are applicable to this market.

On the Friday following the show, the American Herbal Products Association held their 2nd Annual Botanical Congress. This was a very exciting and interesting meeting all about Natural Products. For the meeting, we presented our posters:

Amino Acid Analysis in Supplements and Sports Drinks
Analysis of Theanine in Tea (an amino acid)
Aflatoxins and Ochratoxin A in Herbs and Spices

Galveston, TX
Gulf Coast Conference

The annual meeting of the Gulf Coast Conference was held for the final year in Galveston, Texas (it moves to Houston in 2015). Taken from their website, “The Gulf Coast Conference is an organization oriented toward the education and advancement of galvestonknowledge of Chemical Analysis Technology associated with the Petrochemical, Refining, and Environmental fields, and will forward this goal through annual technical meetings, regular communications, and training courses focused on these fields.”  I went down to Texas to check out the meeting and to determine whether it may be a good fit for our GPC cleanup systems for use in the Environmental testing field.

Vancouver, BC
SETAC Annual Meeting

The Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry held their annual meeting in dextechVancouver, British Columbia in November. Saji and I were there to present our new Dioxin cleanup system, the DEXTech to the environmental chemistry group. The new DEXTech can cleanup of samples for the analysis of dioxins and PCBs — and do so quickly and efficiently.

Check out the brochure HEREvancouver

Our Canadian distributors, Chromatographic Specialties, were also on hand and were a big help to the success of the meeting.

Hangzhou, China
Ameritech’s Marketing Communications and Customer Appreciation Meeting.

Held on November 20, 2014. Mike and I traveled to Hangzhou, China for the meeting.  You can read more about it in Mike’s report here

Analytical Chemistry Market Development in China

By Mike Gottschalk

November 20, 2014 – Hangzhou China. Pickering executives present to Ameritech’s Marketing Communications and Customer appreciation Meeting.ameritech meeting 2

Ameritech is the largest distributor of Pickering Laboratories products in the world today. With 4 offices in China; Beijing, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Guangzhou. Together they supply the Chinese Agricultural Ministries and Regional governmental authorities with the Analytical Products from Pickering Laboratories. In fact the Chinese Agricultural Ministries regulation on Carbamate Analysis specifically requires Pickering Laboratories instrumentation. As the Chinese economy modernizes so does the analytical chemistry infrastructure to support the growing aspirations of the Chinese people.DSC_010285 customers from all over China and 20 Ameritech employees participated in the two day presentations from Pickering Labs. Mike Gottschalk, Vice President of Marketing presented the history of the Ameritech and Pickering Laboratories collaboration that spans 23 years. Ameritech yearly sales have increasing each year reflecting the incredible growth of the Chinese acceptance of the testing protocols for Carbamates and Glyphosate.

Wendy Rasmussen, Director of Sales presented an in depth exploration of the Pinnacle PCX and Vector PCX Post-Column Derivatization instrumentation along with application-specific details. The Pinnacle PCX and the Vector PCX are designed to optimize the combination of Pickering Labs columns, reagents and instrumentation to enable remarkable analysis that no other company can copy.

“We visit China on a regular basis to support the incredible growth in China. Ten years ago there we masses of bicycles in the street , today only cars. The economy has grown that much during that time.”, said Wendy Rasmussen. She went on to describe the natural progression of market growth in china. “Herbal supplement applications is a new and developing market in the United States with so much of the raw materials coming from China. As the regulations in the US develop, the analytical testing in China grow to match.”

Before traveling to Hangzhou, we were fortunate to have a long layover in Shanghai:shanghai at night 5shanghai from 100th floor4

Food Labels, Naturally

By Michael Pickering

While making my selections at the grocery store, I am often struck by the myriad of claims presented on food packaging.  I wonder what exactly qualifies a peach jam as “organic,” or a powdered diet beverage as “natural?”  made with natural ingredientsOr when is a manufacturer allowed to claim specific health benefits from their product, or to declare that their food is a “good source” of a nutrient? My own experiences and growing curiosity have led me down this rabbit hole of exploration, and in sharing my discoveries I hope to add transparency to your next grocery trip.

At one time, specific nutrient descriptors were only loosely defined and the serving size was up to the discretion of the producer.  As you’d expect, this led to wildly different nutrition labels from one manufacturer to the next, even when comparing the same product.  Although there are still several misleading areas of food labeling (to be discussed), the regulatory push to standardize nutrient labeling, create serving sizes that reflect typical consumption, and plainly list common allergens has benefited today’s consumers.  It allows us to quickly compare two brands of the same product and determine the nutritional value of each.

Consistent serving sizes by product are now defined and enforced, and the serving measurements are required to be printed in both metric and common household units.  handheld labelHealth claims are required to follow more exacting guidelines – the amount of nutrient required to be present in order to claim a direct link to the health-related condition has been clearly defined.  For example, in order to print claims about reducing the risk of osteoporosis, a food must contain at least 200 milligrams of calcium, in a form that can be readily absorbed into the body.

In addition to specific requirements for claiming health benefits, manufacturers also must follow specific guidelines when using phrases like “free” or “fresh” or “source.”  For example: labeling a food as “Sodium Free” requires it to contain less than 5 mg of sodium per serving and not have any ingredient that is sodium chloride, and if the food occurs normally as being sodium free without additional processing or alteration, that must be disclosed.

During the last couple of years, I’ve seen a growing number of labels declaring foods to be “gluten-free.”  In line with my observations, the FDA recently implemented clear requirements for “gluten-free,” and any food that fails to meet the 20 ppm (20 mg of gluten in 1 kg of food) maximum will be prosecuted as misbranded.  Gluten-containing grains (wheat, rye, and barley) must be absent completely from the ingredient list, as well as any ingredient derived from a gluten-containing grain (such as flour).   In fact, I learned that food producers must now clearly label whether a product contains any of the most common allergens, which are responsible for 90% of all food allergic reactions.

Most Common Food Allergens
Milk Peanuts Shellfish Tree Nuts Eggs Fish Soy Wheat

Organic foods follow strict criteria and regulation by the National Organic Program (USDA).  To be labeled “organic,” a food must consist of at least 95% organically produced ingredients.  There is a list of nonagricultural substances approved for use in the remaining 5% (which are not commercially available in organic form).  Organic foods are produced using approved organic farming methods, which prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  They also may not be irradiated or genetically modified.usda organic

The discussion of “organic” foods leads us organically into a discussion of “natural” foods, and here is where food labeling begins being less transparent.  The FDA defines “natural flavoring” in great detail, including specifying that a natural flavor may only be expressed in the food’s label if that flavor simulates the food from which it is derived.  For example, using a natural flavoring derived from an apple to make a juice taste of strawberries requires the manufacturer to either label it as “artificially flavored” or else to label the juice as containing “natural apple flavor.”  While on the subject of juices, the FDA declares that if a juice drink is less than 100% juice, it is not allowed to declare itself neither “100% natural” nor “100% pure.”free of stuff tags

Interestingly, this is where the FDA guidance for “natural” comes to a halt.  There is no FDA definition or regulation of “natural” on food labels, beyond the previously discussed flavors.  The USDA has limited the use of “natural” to only indicate a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and only minimal processing, but this only applies to the USDA-governed meat, poultry, and eggs.  The FDA has a longstanding policy (not a formal definition) to consider the term “natural” to mean that nothing synthetic or artificial (including all color additives regardless of source) has been added. Without further regulation, foods labeled “natural” can include high fructose corn syrup, genetically engineered ingredients, and any other plant-derived substances such as flavors or sweeteners.

When comparing foods as “organic” versus “natural,” I like to think of the analogy of a person describing themselves as “religious” versus “spiritual.”  Much like a religious person follows particular guidelines for their practice, so too is organic food grown with specific procedures and outcomes in mind.  In comparison, I think of a spiritual person as more fluid, with fewer specific rituals or at least less commonly-defined ones, and that would hold true for natural foods.  Natural foods are not rigidly regulated, which results in each manufacturer creating their own set of beliefs for what determines how “natural” their foods are.

Food for thought, when you are next out grocery shopping.

AOAC International Annual Meeting in Boca Raton

This year’s meeting was held at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida.  sunsetWe had a booth this year as usual, and we presented our FREESTYLE ThermELUTE system, which is a great new automated system for fast and sensitive Mycotoxin analysis. We also shared some details about this new system in our Vendor presentation and our poster titled “Integrated Analysis and Automated Sample Cleanup of Aflatoxin B/G, M1, Ochratoxin A”banyon tree

In addition to ThermELUTE, Laszlo Torma and Maria Ofitserova were on hand to participate in several community meetings and Expert Review Panels and to present a second poster.

After the exhibition ended on Tuesday afternoon, we stayed to listen to Wednesday’s talks and to present our second poster on Glufosinate, titled simply, “Glufosinate and Glyphosate in Water”  While this herbicide is not necessarily a new topic, it’s certainly a challenging one, and with the developing resistance of the unwanted plants (i.e. weeds) to Glyphosate, growers are turning to this herbicide.

As a team, we sat in on a few sessions; this editor sat in on two:

Honey Production & Veterinary Drug Contamination: Fate & Control in which some new methods for analyzing antibiotics in honey were presented. One particularly interesting presentation highlighted the challenges of finding standards for several degradation products of the antibiotics in the honey.

Analytical Challenges with Chemicals of Emerging Concern to Test Food Quality and Safety: Presentations included studies about the uptake of Emerging contaminants (i.e. flame retardants, diphenhydramine) by crops using reclaimed water, and an interesting technique using metabolomics to determine the authenticity of herbs and spices. A third presenter described their analytical challenges when facing illegal food dyes, such as Rhodamine B in imported products. This last presentation was rather frightening due to the prevalence of these dyes in products from developing countries which are finding their way into our food supply.

Outside of the meeting rooms, the resort is located in a very affluent area of Boca Raton. It was rumored that Oprah Winfrey is a member of the golf club there. Indeed, while taking a short walk around the grounds, we saw a Ferrari, a Mazerati, and a Bentley. Not to mention several Mercedes Benz and Porsche. On the water were several megayachts, mega yachtand an Oyster sailing yacht. oysterThe sailboat included a paid crew, bow thrusters and electric winches, all of which would be very much appreciated by this editor on our boat (although some would argue that such conveniences are “cheating”).

All in all, it was a good meeting. We enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones.  We look forward to the 2015 meeting in Los Angeles, California.

boca view east

boca view north


Cleanup Columns for Aflatoxin M1

Continuing to build on our LCTech product line for Myctoxin analysis, we are very happy to report that we now have cleanup columns for M1 in milk and dairy products.Milch

Borrowing text from our partners at LCTech:

LCTech has developed the immunoaffinity columns AflaCLEAN™ Select M1 and AflaCLEAN™ SMART M1 for the clean-up for aflatoxin M1 from milk and dairy products in the format of 3 mL or the practical SMART format to simplify the sample preparation for the analysis of food.

Both formats of the columns have a loading capacity of 100 ng aflatoxin M1 and convince with excellent recoveries ≥ 90%.

The immunoaffinity column AflaCLEAN™ Select M1 can be automatically processed with the AcceCLEAN™ or the FREESTYLE™ robotic system. The SMART columns impresses especially in combination with the FREESTYLE™ ThermELUTE™ providing an automated handling from extract to the chromatogram with a sample throughput of more than 500 samples per week and a reduced solvent consumption at the same time.

Also, LCTech have on their website a great resources called Matrix of the Month. Be sure to click over and check it out.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions: