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Monitoring of Nickel in Food and Feed

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Commission Recommendation (EU) for improvement of data collection

July 2016. EU Member States, food business operators and other interested parties are requested to monitor the presence of nickel (Ni) in food during 2016, 2017 and 2018 according to Recommendation (EU) 2016/1110 for feed and (EU) 2016/1111 for food.

Nickel is ubiquitous in the environment. Humans are mainly exposed to nickel by food, drinking water and air. Amongst others nickel is applied in jewellery, textile components, domestic installations and medical compounds. It is the most frequent trigger of contact allergies and in case of inhalation potentially carcinogenic. Especially nickel-sensitised individuals are at risk of developing eczematous flare-up skin reactions after oral exposure.

Currently there are no maximum levels (MLs) for nickel in food. For drinking water and natural mineral waters, a ML of 20 µg/L has been defined by the EU. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) raised potential health concerns due to current levels of acute dietary exposure to nickel (EFSA Journal 2015; 13(2):4002). However, the available data set was insufficient and not representative.

The objectives of the monitoring are to improve the data collection regarding the dietary exposure of nickel and to determine carry-over rates from feed to food of animal origin.

The monitoring should focus on the following food groups:

  • Cereals and cereal-based products
  • Infant formula and follow-on formula
  • Baby food and processed cereal-based food for infants and young children
  • Food for special medical purposes intended specifically for infants and young children
  • Vegetables and vegetable products (including legumes and fungi)
  • Fruits
  • Nuts and oil seeds
  • Sugar and confectionery (including cocoa and chocolate)
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Dry tea leaves, dry parts of other plants used for herbal infusions
  • Food supplements
  • Bivalve molluscs
  • Biveral elements may now be analysed simultaneously and even with much higher sensitivity. 

The analysis of total nickel should be performed in accordance with Standard EN 13804:2013.

Eurofins is offering all recommended analytical methods, such as classical atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) with graphite furnace or respectively cold vapor, as well as ICP-OES and ICP-MS-techniques. Due to the introduction of the high-resolution ICP-MS, several elements may now be analysed simultaneously and even with much higher sensitivity. 

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