• Food Safety in China – Trends in Trace Elemental Analysis  

Food Safety Testing

Food Safety in China – Trends in Trace Elemental Analysis  

May 03 2010

Over recent years the requirement for the trace elemental analysis of food products has matched the increased focus of the global market on food safety. In particular, with the Chinese GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate at approximately 10 percent year on year, and the export of food from China totaling billions of dollars, the need to meet legislative export requirements is significantly increasing the demand for trace elemental analysis in China. In addition, the introduction of The Food Safety Law in China in June 2009, which toughens penalties against manufacturers of mislabeled or tainted food, has significantly raised the profile of food safety as one of the most prominent topics in China today.

China is the world’s largest exporter of fruit and vegetables, with meat, fish and cereals (such as rice) also contributing significantly to the export market. Of particular concern, and necessary for ensuring the safety of consumers, is the analysis of toxic (heavy) metals in food, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. These elements offer no nutritional benefit to the consumer and, while current legislation specifies maximum levels of these elements, the ideal is to ensure these elements are entirely absent or present in levels far below the maximum limits. Examples of current limits include 0.2 mg/kg cadmium in rice, 0.05 mg/kg mercury in fish, and 0.2 mg/kg arsenic in fruit juice.

During the last year, Thermo Fisher Scientific observed nearly a quarter of Atomic Absorption (AA) spectrometers sold in China placed in the food and beverage industry – the largest proportion of units within a single market sector - with a number of Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) spectrometers also placed into the same field. AA has become the technique of choice due to its simplicity and affordability, while still meeting the requirements of global legislation and validation. The combination of flame, furnace and hydride methodologies allows measurement over a wide analytical range, from the low parts per billion to high parts per million or even percent levels, and can handle complex and varied sample matrices. However, ICP offers the capabilities of multi-element, low level screening and is likely to become the solution of choice for laboratories requiring higher throughput and complete analysis on trace elemental content of food products.

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