Feed for pets, as food for humans, must conform to EU legislation limiting the amount of undesired substances contained in food and feed products. Directive 2002/32/EC regulates the maximum levels of undesired elements in feed.
In the two proficiency tests carried out by the EURL-HM, the original cat feed sample was obtained from a local supermarket and tests showed that it was uncontaminated. Subsequently, it was fortified with heavy metals to match the maximum levels as given in the Directive.
The EURL-HM together with a network of National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) in the Member States must ensure that official control laboratories have the technical expertise and analytical capabilities for the harmonised implementation of the Directive.
In this exercise, the EU Member States' NRLs performed on an overall basis better than other food control laboratories. Depending on the heavy metal (analyte) 79-82 % of the results reported by the NRLs were satisfactory, therefore showing an overall adequate performance of the NRLs in carrying out the compliance testing for contaminants in feed. Other laboratories (41 from 24 different countries) did not perform that well as only 58-74 % of the reported results were in the acceptable range.
The EURL-HM informed the less performing laboratories about possible sources of errors and gave instruction for correcting possible shortcomings in their testing methodology. Information was also given to technical assessors of National Accreditation Bodies (in the frame a collaboration agreement with the European Cooperation for Accreditation).
Since 2006, the EURL-HM has been providing training courses and feedback to the National Reference Laboratories on how to improve the quality of their results. This dynamic of continuous learning and improvement of testing capabilities benefits eventually European consumers, since accurate measurements guarantee the safety and reliability of the products tested.