EU Science Hub

Reference materials for food analysis

The certified reference materials distributed by the JRC give measurement laboratories a means to validate analytical methods and to assess the accuracy of their measurement results. Over the years, the JRC has developed a broad variety of food related reference materials covering a wide range of analyte/matrix combinations.

Food composition, micronutrients and authenticity of foods

The analysis of nutritional properties (total fat, protein, ash, etc.) is of high importance for labelling of foodstuffs, for international trade in commodities, and the support schemes of the Common Agricultural Policy. To cover this area of application, the JRC offers reference materials such as milk powder, flour and meat that are certified for their content of macronutrients (protein, fat, etc). JRC’s selection of reference materials also includes a number of suitable matrix certified reference materials for the analysis of micronutrients in the diet e.g. fat and water soluble vitamins, dietary fibre and trace elements, used as supplements in many food items.

Further examples of reference materials supporting EU legislation are the certified reference materials for the deuterium/hydrogen ratio in ethanol and for the 18O/16O ratio in water from wine. These are needed for method standardisation of analytical techniques such as isotopic ratio mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of site-specific natural isotope fractionation, used to counter misuse of sugaring of must to increase the alcoholic strength of wine, which is strictly regulated within the EU.

Contaminants, residues and natural toxins

Contaminants, residues and natural toxins in the food chain regularly make the headlines. International monitoring programmes to identify and locate the contamination source rely on the comparability of data.

The JRC has developed certified reference materials for polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, and other persistent organic pollutants, which can be used for calibration (substances of very high purity) and method validation (matrix materials). JRC supplies high quality reference materials for a number of mycotoxin/matrix combinations e.g. aflatoxin M1 in milk powder, aflatoxins B and G in peanut products, deoxynivalenol in flour, ochratoxin A in wheat and zearalenone in maize.

As a support to the EU wide network of laboratories charged with carrying out the monitoring programme for the control of veterinary drug residues in food and hormones used for fattening cattle, JRC has developed numerous materials for veterinary drugs in animal tissues and body fluids. Certified reference materials for clenbuterol and salbutamol in bovine urine and liver, diethylstilboestrol, dienoestrol and hexoestrol in bovine urine are also available.

This work also supports two particular pieces of EU legislation setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs and maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin.

All reference materials available at JRC can be found in the Reference materials catalogue.