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A major aspect of our daily lives is the need to acquire, store and prepare our food. Storage and preparation can have drastic effects on the compositional chemistry of our foods, but we have a limited understanding of the temporal nature of processes such as storage, spoilage, fermentation and brewing on the chemistry of the foods we eat. Here, we performed a temporal analysis of the chemical changes in foods during common household preparations using untargeted mass spectrometry and novel data analysis approaches. Common treatments of foods such as home fermentation of yogurt, brewing of tea, spoilage of meats and ripening of tomatoes altered the chemical makeup through time, through both chemical and biological processes. For example, brewing tea altered its composition by increasing the diversity of molecules, but this change was halted after 4 min of brewing. The results indicate that this is largely due to differential extraction of the material from the tea and not modification of the molecules during the brewing process. This is in contrast to the preparation of yogurt from milk, spoilage of meat and the ripening of tomatoes where biological transformations directly altered the foods molecular composition. Comprehensive assessment of chemical changes using multivariate statistics showed the varied impacts of the different food treatments, while analysis of individual chemical changes show specific alterations of chemical families in the different food types. The methods developed here represent novel approaches to studying the changes in food chemistry that can reveal global alterations in chemical profiles and specific transformations at the chemical level.

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