Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

photo from a laboratory

New standard method to determine inorganic arsenic in animal feed© EU, 2012

Inorganic arsenic in animal feed: JRC study results in CEN standard


A collaborative study (IMEP-32) organised by the JRC jointly with the Technical University of Denmark has paved the way for a new European standard method (EN 16278:2012) for the determination of inorganic arsenic in animal feed. 19 laboratories took part in the exercise, which proved the analytical method was fit for purpose.

Arsenic is an ubiquitous element, introduced to the environment from natural sources such as volcanic activity and weathering of minerals or anthropogenic sources such as ore smelting, burning of coal, pesticide use and the use of growth promoters. A large variety of different naturally arsenic species exist, especially in the marine environment, where more than 50 different species have been identified. The toxicity of the species varies very much, with inorganic arsenic being the most toxic species.

The European Directive 2002/32/EC provides maximum levels for a range of undesirable substances in animal feed. It establishes that upon request of the competent authorities, the responsible operator needs to demonstrate that the content of inorganic arsenic is lower than 2 ppm (parts per million).

The method, which will be used for the official control of feeding stuffs throughout the EU, is based on solid phase extraction (SPE) separation of inorganic arsenic from organoarsenic compounds followed by detection with hydride generation atomic absorption spectrometry (HG-AAS).

JRC's IMEP programme

The JRC carries out the International Measurement Evaluation programme (IMEP), which provides support to the European measurement infrastructure in the following ways:

  • It promotes metrology from the highest level down to the field laboratories. These laboratories can benchmark their measurement results against the IMEP certified reference value. This value is established according to metrological best practice.
  • It helps laboratories participating in proficiency tests (PTs) to assess their estimate of measurement uncertainty. IMEP integrates the estimate into the scoring, and provides assistance for the interpretation.
  • It supports EU policies by organising interlaboratory comparison exercises (ILC) within the framework of specific EU Directives or upon specific requests from Directorate-Generals.