Heavy Metals

Heavy Metals

Contaminants in Foodstuffs

Heavy metals such as the elements lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic get into foodstuffs as environmental contaminants. Due to their toxic characteristics, statutory maximum levels have been defined in the Swiss Ordinance on Foreign Substances and Ingredients for a range of vegetable foodstuffs and foodstuffs of animal origin. In the European Union, the EG Ordinance 1881/2006 applies for the assignment of maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. 

Are you looking for an accredited Swiss contract laboratory to monitor your products for heavy metals? We will test for you in accordance with the Swiss Book of Foodstuffs (Schweizer Lebensmittelbuch, SLMB) using the latest methods. 

In our modern laboratory, spectroscopic measurement techniques such as atomic absorption (AAS), emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) or the highly-sensitive coupling of ICP with a mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) are available.

Depending on the question being asked, element screening can be carried out along with the targeted detection of an individual element. Here, up to 23 elements can be identified in one analysis process.

Do you want to know which analysis is most suitable for your requirements? Do you have any questions on the interpretation of the Swiss Book of Foodstuffs (SLMB) or do you require help in the evaluation of the test results? 

 

We will be happy to advise you.

Read on here for more information or contact us.


Where do heavy metals come from?

Determination of heavy metals: Particularly important in marine foodstuffs such as fishes and crustaceans
Determination of heavy metals: Particularly important in marine foodstuffs such as fishes and crustaceans

Heavy metals are largely found in nature as minerals and ores. They get into the environment as a result of being extracted, from erosion or from volcanic activity. Heavy metals are used in a number of technical applications and processes and can get into the environment or into products unintentionally.

Because heavy metals are stored in organs, increased concentrations of heavy metals in foods can lead to chronic poisoning. Increased levels of heavy metals (in particular mercury and arsenic) can occur particularly in marine foodstuffs such as fish and crustaceans as well as algae.

In terrestrial animals, lead, cadmium and copper can be found in significant quantities, particularly in the organs. Game meat can additionally contain heavy metals in the muscles from remnants of ammunition. Plants and mushrooms such as cereals, cacao, oilseed or wild mushrooms can also store these elements.

Heavy metal intake from packaging and storage

An additional source for heavy metals in foods is the packaging. Elements such as tin, zinc, iron or lead can migrate into the contents of the can, particularly for acidic canned foods that are in direct contact with the metal in the can.

When in direct contact with metal pipes, drinking water can also be contaminated with heavy metals.

Heavy metals as physiologically valuable food additives

Not all metals that come under the definition of “heavy metals” are in general harmful.

Some heavy metals such as the trace elements copper, cobalt, nickel, manganese and zinc are physiologically valuable within a certain concentration range. They can get into foods via environmental contamination but can also be intentionally added to foodstuffs such as into baby foods or dietary supplements. The applicable minimum and maximum amounts as well as the permitted types of additives have been defined in detail for various special foodstuffs in the appendices of the Ordinance of the Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs on Special Foodstuffs.

Would you like to highlight the physiologically valuable elements in your foodstuffs?

Laboratory analysis will provide you with the necessary information on the element content of your product. Would you like to highlight this information on the label? Then you must also consider whether an extended declaration of nutrients (“big 8”) will be necessary.

How are heavy metals measured?

There are a number of spectroscopic measurement techniques for the detection of heavy metals available to the laboratory.

Depending on the concentration and on the element, the spectroscopic measurement techniques atomic absorption (AAS), emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) or the highly-sensitive coupling of ICP with a mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) are used.

There is also the possibility of carrying out element screening along with the targeted detection of an individual element. Here, up to 23 elements can be identified in one analysis process. Screening is therefore always worth considering when contamination is suspected and an initial overview is required.


Our services in detail:

Determination of heavy metals using AAS
Determination of heavy metals using AAS

contact person

sales for foodstuffs

Jörg Freudenberger State Certified Graduate Food Chemist

Tel. +41 58 434 42 00 Fax +41 58 434 42 01 service@ufag-laboratorien.ch

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