We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
The JRC, in its competence as the European Reference Laboratory (EURL) on Heavy Metals in Food, organised an inter-comparison study for the determination of total arsenic and inorganic arsenic in rice. The participants were National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) and official food laboratories in the EU Member States. The study revealed that improvement in performance is still necessary.
The inter-comparison study was carried out in support of the implementation of the provisions of Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/1006 that sets maximum levels of inorganic arsenic in foodstuffs. Rice is a staple food with potentially elevated levels of arsenic. Children and some ethnic groups could, therefore, be highly exposed to inorganic arsenic via the consumption of rice.
Among the different forms in which arsenic can be present in food, inorganic arsenic is the most toxic one. Inorganic arsenic can cause lung, bladder and skin cancer. For this reason, the European Commission sets maximum levels for inorganic arsenic, and not for total arsenic, in different types of rice in the European legislation for contaminants in food (Commission Regulation (EC) 1881/2006)). The stated maximum levels were enforced in January 2016.
The recent inter-comparison (proficiency) study has revealed that about 90 % of the participating laboratories performed satisfactorily for the determination of total As. However, only 55 % of the participants reported satisfactory results for inorganic arsenic. Most of the participating laboratories were Official Control Laboratories and National Reference Laboratories, indicating that even laboratories offering qualified and experienced services face difficulties in implementing the legislation.
The JRC hosted EURL will discuss these problems with the NRLs to improve the situation.
Measurement results and associated expanded measurement uncertainties.
Assigned value (Xpt): black line; Assigned range (Xpt ± Upt): dashed line; Acceptance range (Xpt ± 2σpt): red lines.
Nxx: National Reference Laboratories, Lxx: Official Control Laboratories
Read more in F. Cordeiro et al.: "Determination of total and inorganic arsenic in rice: IRMM-PT-43 Proficiency Test Report", JRC 102940 European Union (2016)