The flavours contained in a mammalian mother's milk can exert a marked influence on her offspring's proximate suckling behaviour and later preferences. The aim of this study was to establish a reliable analytical procedure to characterise the mammary transfer of selected volatile constituents of maternal food from non-pregnant and recently parturient ewes. Six known volatile compounds, most representative of cumin aroma (alpha-pinene, gamma-terpinene, cuminaldehyde, p-cymene, limonene and cineole), were traced in the blood and milk of ewes fed with cumin seeds, using liquid-liquid extraction combined with gas chromatography-specific ion monitoring mass spectrometry. Among the six cumin odour markers, only one, p-cymene, was transferred in quantifiable amounts into the venous plasma. The other cumin markers could only be detected as traces corresponding to amounts lower that the limit of quantification. In milk, four of the cumin markers could be detected, and two of these were quantified.
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