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Validated methods to detect endocrine-disrupting substance in sports drinks

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The JRC-IRMM has developed and validated (single laboratory) three methods of analysis that allow a rapid and accurate determination of bis-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) in sports drinks.

The analytical methods were single laboratory validated for a DEHP range of 3 mg/kg to 100 mg/kg in sports drinks. Preliminary method performance parameters are provided with the standard operating procedures (SOPs), which are available for downloading below:

  • SOP 1[859Kb] (based on isotope dilution gas chromatography mass spectrometry)
  • SOP 2[1147Kb] (based on isotope dilution liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry)
  • SOP 3[873Kb] (based on isotope dilution headspace solid phase micro extraction gas chromatography mass spectrometry)


Users of the above methods are invited to submit feedback to  regarding the applicability of the methods, observations made during the actual use of the methods and any limitations of the methods encountered. This feedback will be collected and made available on this website.


Why did JRC-IRMM develop these methods?

The European Commission was recently notified by the Taiwanese Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) about the illegal addition of significant amounts of phthalates to food additives that are used as "clouding agents".

Such food additives are used to give a cloudy appearance to products such as sports drinks, jelly and fruit pulps. Normally, this cloudy appearance is obtained using a palm-oil based product, but in the Taiwanese incident, this was largely replaced by the cheaper chemical bis-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (commonly abbreviated DEHP), and in one case by di-iso-nonyl phthalate (DINP).

Both DEHP and DINP are used as plasticizers in many plastic products. These substances shall not be used for the production of food, and use in plastic toys and childcare products is restricted in the EU. The reason for concern is that the chemical has been linked to developmental problems with children as it affects hormones.

In response to the incident, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Consumers asked the JRC if analytical methods for the determination of DEHP in the affected beverages could be made available.


Which products and geographical areas are concerned?

During this incident, DEHP entered into many products via the clouding agent in significant amounts.The Taiwanese Food and Drug Administration has published1 the names of 879 products of more than 300 producers that contained high amounts of phthalates. The levels that were reported by the Taiwanese authorities to the World Health Organization were in the range of about 2 mg/kg to about 35 mg/kg. More than 200 products from 34 producers were exported to 22 countries, among others to some EU Member States.





Latest update 18 July, 2011

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