The European Union Reference Laboratory for Heavy Metals in Feed and Food was created to implement Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with the feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules. Regulation (EC) No 776/2006 nominates the Joint Research Centre as the European Union Reference Laboratory (EU-RL) for Heavy Metals in Feed and Food. It is established at the JRC Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) and works together with appointed National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) of the EU Member States.
Heavy metals are present in all foodstuffs. Their amount in food and feed depends on the natural content and on the conditions under which food and feed are produced and processed. Some heavy metals have nutritional functions and are essential to the health. But others such as lead, cadmium and mercury have no nutritional relevance and can cause serious illnesses.
To reduce the risk to human health associated with a high heavy metal content in food and feed, maximum allowed limits in several commodities have been laid down in the European legislation. The EU-RLs acts in this frame of legislation dealing with controls of heavy metal content in food and feed as a result of environmental or industrial contamination.
Tasks of the EU-RL for Heavy Metals in Feed and Food
The task of the EU-RL for Heavy Metals in Feed and Food is to facilitate the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 and Directive 2001/22/EC establishing the maximum levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium in different foods.
One of the core tasks of the EU-RLs is to organise interlaboratory comparisons where the appointed national reference laboratories can participate. Furthermore it supports and gives advice to the European authorities and the NRLs on scientific matters. Development and validation of standardised analytical methods can also be carried out if the national reference laboratories ask for it, as well as training on the relevant European legislation.
The three types of matrices covered by the EU-RLs are: wild caught fish, food of plant origin and animal feed.