Laboratories well-equipped to measure fipronil in food products
In the wake of the recent fipronil crisis, the JRC organised a proficiency test which confirmed that the vast majority of official European control laboratories can accurately detect levels of the insecticide in food products. The recent fipronil case left many consumers concerned that this insecticide might be present in their food.
In response, official control laboratories continuously test eggs and egg containing food products to ensure that the EU established maximum limit of 0.005 mg fipronil and fipronil sulfone per kg of eggs is not exceeded. To assess the quality of the measurement results, i.e. to check how well laboratories - especially official food control laboratories - are able to analyse fipronil and fipronil sulfone, the JRC recently organised a proficiency test. Two well-characterised and homogeneous sets of samples of frozen liquid eggs were prepared in the JRC laboratories and were distributed to 85 participants (national reference laboratories and official food control laboratories from EU Member States as well as Norway, Albania and Serbia) for analysis.
Each participant had to report a total of 6 results, obtained by applying their analytical method of choice. Participants were given 2 weeks from the dispatch of samples to report their results, which were then compared by the JRC against the independent reference values. Almost all (79 out of 85) laboratories were able to quickly and accurately determine the amount of fipronil and its main degradation product, fipronil sulfone, in the test materials. They correctly determined which of the provided test samples would be non-compliant according to levels set in European legislation. The high quality of the reported results is encouraging, as it confirms the analytical capability of most of the participating official control laboratories to enforce EU Regulations and protect the safety of our food.
A Certified Reference Material to aid detection
To further support laboratories in assessing the quality of their test results, the JRC is currently preparing a Certified Reference Material (CRM), based on fipronil and fipronil sulfone contaminated eggs. The JRC has a long history in developing CRMs catalogue and in organising PTs to support the implementation of legislation requiring measurement results.
The JRC also has a track record of working on CRMs for pesticide measurements in food for many years, as well as in developing quality control concepts for related measurements. Currently, two CRMs of cucumber and soya, containing about 15 pesticides each, are under development and expected to become available to the measurement community in the months ahead.