Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to identify and quantify the predominant capsaicinoid analogues in extracts of fresh peppers, in oleoresin capsicum, and pepper sprays. The concentration of capsaicinoids in fresh peppers was variable. Variability was dependent upon the relative pungency of the pepper type and geographical origin of the pepper. Nonivamide was conclusively identified in the extracts of fresh peppers, despite numerous reports that nonivamide was not a natural product. In the oleoresin capsicum samples, the pungency was proportional to the total concentration of capsaicinoids and was related by a factor of approximately 15,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)/µg of total capsaicinoids. The principle analogues detected in oleoresin capsicum were capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin and appeared to be the analogues primarily responsible for the pungency of the sample. The analysis of selected samples of commercially available pepper spray products also demonstrated variability in the capsaicinoid concentrations. Variability was observed among products obtained from different manufacturers as well as from different product lots from the same manufacturer. These data indicate that commercial pepper products are not standardized for capsaicinoid content even though they are classified by SHU. Variability in the capsaicinoid concentrations in oleoresin capsicum-based self-defense weapons could alter potency and ultimately jeopardize the safety and health of users and assailants.
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