Campden BRI investment turns up heavy metal testing

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

The NexION 350D ICP-MS from PerkinElmer
The NexION 350D ICP-MS from PerkinElmer

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Campden BRI has invested in an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) from PerkinElmer.

The NexION 350D ICP-MS will be used to quantify levels of heavy metals and other elemental contaminants in food samples.

ICP-MS analyses chemical elements (sodium, calcium, mercury), while LC/MS measures complex non-volatile chemical molecules (such as vitamins) and GC/MS looks at volatile chemicals (e.g. flavours).

Campden BRI said it will add capabilities to common testing which includes looking at levels of metals such as lead in cereals, cadmium in cocoa beans, arsenic in rice and mercury in fish.

Metals in the food chain

Julian South, head of chemistry and biochemistry at Campden BRI, said there are many routes for metals to enter the food chain.

“Principally they come from the environment; from the soil, from water, from the air etc.  They can also arise from migration into food from packaging materials,” ​he told FoodQualityNews. 

“There are European Regulatory limits for key metal contaminants such as lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic. 

“Food producers have to ensure their products comply with these limits and this is why many of our clients send samples to us for testing.”

South said it has a long running relationship with PerkinElmer, including purchasing equipment from them before, but has now set up a technical partnership.   

He added that the machine replaces an existing ICP-MS which it has had for many years. While it provided good service, the new instrument has more advanced capabilities.

It will also enable the firm to deal with challenging food types where it has previously had problems due to interferences between elements.

Nickel concerns

A current concern is nickel and stringent limits are being considered by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), ​said South.

“Trace amounts of nickel are present in some foods and largely arise from the soil, although some can migrate from packaging since nickel is used in metal cans.  Some foods are naturally high in nickel, such as chocolate and oysters. 

“EFSA are currently preparing a scientific opinion on nickel, due to be published early this year.”

The mass spectrometer is the latest purchase as part of ongoing investment at Campden BRI.

In the last two years the company has installed almost £2m in processing and analytical equipment.

Campden BRI is also working with PerkinElmer to develop testing methods for the food and drink industry.

“There are a number of areas of development which we will seek to develop in partnership with PerkinElmer​,” said South.

“One example is inorganic arsenic.  Our current testing is for total arsenic but future requirements (and legislation) will require speciation into both organic and inorganic forms of arsenic.”

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