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Wissen, was drin ist.


January 2017

• Soil of the Year 2017
• Ethoxyquin in Food

• Disposal of Insulating Materials Containing HBCD 

• Allergens
• February - Time for Trade Fairs

• Support Ger. Fondation for Children with Cancer


Dear Readers,

we hope you’ve had a pleasant start into the New Year and welcome you to the first issue of our newsletter in 2017, where we once again present you interesting subjects in the field of food and environmental analysis.

Enjoy reading!
Your GBA Laboratory Group 


Soil of the Year 2017 – Garden Soil

by Dr. Sven Steinhauer, GBA Laboratory Group

The Soil of the Year 2017 is garden soil. Garden soil, or horticultural soil (from hortus, the Latin word for garden), is any soil that has been developed from other soils for the purpose of garden cultivation. It is a soil that has been crea­ted by human hands throughout generations, with powerful and fertile topsoil rich in humus. Garden soil is an important archive of our cultural history; inter­nationally it is also called hortic anthrosol.[1]

Mankind has been processing soil since the Stone Age, which made us a deci­sive factor in determining the soil composition. By turning over and mixing the soil, adding compost and other organic materials, the soil becomes looser and more fertile.

In the Middle Ages, as cities grew, residents created peasant gardens both in­side and outside the city limits, either for their own food supply or for selling produce at city markets, and they have cultivated these gardens over genera­tions. Thus, the following garden soils came into existence:

•  Cloister gardens
•  Castle and palace gardens
•  Peasant gardens in and around the city
•  Farmer’s gardens in and around the edges of older rural settlements and 

Even in the early Middle Ages, the cloisters already formed a large network throughout all of Europe, and their cloister gardens served as the location for innovations in soil culture. In the cloister gardens, the nuns and monks culti­vated new varieties of fruit and vegetables, such as cabbage, parsnips, onions, and spinach, as well as ornamental plants and garden herbs, which then made their way out into the peasant gardens.

Similarly, the castle and palace gardens also operated as large-scale market gardens to supply the general population. In the kitchen gardens, a variety of cultures such as turnips, lettuce, cress, spinach, pumpkins, asparagus, articho­kes, and melons were cultivated using cold frames and greenhouses. In urban settlements, market gardens started to appear in the 12th and 13th centuries.[3]

Today, these important archives of our cultural history are largely hidden under grass and parking lots. Nowadays, they are only cultivated as kitchen gardens in small pockets of land. One good example is the culture of community gardens or allotments. We are experiencing a juxtaposition of traditional garden culture and Urban Gardening as a new form of cultivating gardens and planting crops as well as flowers. Both of these forms of gardening not only serve in the pro­duction of food. They provide places to meet, to engage in recreational activi­ties, and open spaces for children and young families.

A common sign of good garden soil is the particularly loose, fine-grain, and humus-rich topsoil, which gives the soil a dark gray-brown color. The soil gets its loose structure through regular processing, watering, adding humus and li­me, and also from having a particularly high number of soil animals such as earthworms, springtails, and insect larvae. Due to the large amount of hollow space, the soil is well aerated and at the same time, it can also store a lot of water and nutrients for garden plants due to its clay and humus content. Thus humus content slowly decreases as you get further down into the soil, and de­pending on how long it has been used by humans, it reaches depths of 40 cm to over 1 m. Compared to other soils, this soil zone contains a large amount of phos­phorus and nitrogen, two important nutrients for crop plants. Clay particles and the high humus content can store a large amount of rainwater, thus making it available to the plants. Due to the high humus content, the soil is full of life. Underneath a single square meter of garden soil, there are far more organisms (insects, spiders, annelids, small mammals, fungi, bacteria) than there are peop­le on Earth.[2]

Is Garden Soil Endangered?
Within urban spaces, garden soil is increasingly being covered by buildings and roadways, which at times may cause us to lose valuable testimonials to our cultural history. Other areas of soil are no longer sufficiently turned over or pro­vided with enough organic substances (mulch, compost, manure, or waste). Furthermore, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides influences the living organisms and consequently also the soil itself. In many cities, positive initia­tives have been started by gardening schools and school-based gardens in order to teach children and adolescents the value and function of soil. Dealing with garden soil in particular can contribute to a greater sense of responsibility for soil protection, because garden soil often functions like an oasis in high-density urban areas, providing the only access to this sparse resource where most soil is sealed under concrete and asphalt.

The German Umweltbundesamt (Environmental Protection Agency) designates a soil of the year as a way to increase awareness among the general public about how to handle this finite resource in a careful and sustainable way. The GBA Laboratory Group supports this action by passing on this kind of informa­tion to our readers. If you have any questions about this or any other topic in the fields of environmental analysis, then please contact your individual ac­count manager at the GBA Laboratory Group or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Dr. Sven Steinhauer
Tel: +49 (0)40 797172-0

[1]; Accessed on 12.01.2017
[2]; Accessed on 13.01.2017
[3]; Accessed on 13.01.2017


Ethoxyquin in Food

by Mareen Lehmann, GBA Laboratory Group

Ethoxyquin is an aromatic compound from the quinoline group. The substance is used in the production of tires in order to prevent them from becoming brittle due to oxidation. Later it was even utilized in the production of ani­mal feed and also as a pesticide in greenhouses for preventing pear peels from rotting. Since the year 2011, it is no longer permitted as a pesticide. In the production of ani­mal feed, it serves as an antioxidant that prevents natural oxidation processes in the fat content. As a result of the oxidation, the animal feed decreases in qua­lity, not only leading to a loss of taste, but also subsequently to reduced intake and digestibility.  Using ethoxyquin increases the stability and shelf life of fish­meal and fish oil. Residue can accumulate in fish (e.g. salmon) when this feed is used. In addition to the pure substance, the dimer (2 molecules linked together) is also stored in the fatty tissue. The dimer is difficult to break down and is only excreted in small amounts.[1]

Ethoxyquin itself is not considered a genotoxic substance (harmful for DNA), however the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has determined that one of its metabolites, ethoxyquin quinone imine, could be genotoxic. The reassess­ment in the context of the current procedures for all feed additives so far has not resulted in any conclusive risk assessment for consumers or the environment.[2]

As the additive E324, ethoxyquin is permitted in animal feed up to a maximum level of 150 mg/kg according to the Commission Regulation (EC) No 2316/98. This maximum permitted level of antioxidants in animal feed is also valid for the combination of ethoxyquin and other additives, e.g. Butylated hydroxyanisole (E320) or Butylated hydroxytoluene (E321). Since ethoxyquin is no longer per­mitted as a pesticide, the maximum permissible concentration of 0.01 mg/kg that had been listed in the German Regulation on Maximum Residue Levels until 2011 (RhMV, Annex 5, § 1, par. 4, no. 1) is no longer valid.[1]

Since the end of 2016, the press has once again been reporting on the issues of ethoxyquin in fish more frequently. However, in the initial reports, results for ethoxyquin in fish were assessed using the maximum value for meat
(50 µg/kg). This generated confusion among retailers and consumers, because this approach to evaluating the results does not correspond with the actual legal regulations.[3]

If you have questions about this or other topics in the fields of food analysis, then please contact your individual account manager at the GBA Laboratory Group or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Mr. Burger Voß
Tel: +49 (0)40 797172-0


[1] , Accessed on 15.01.2017
[2] , Accessed on 15.01.2017
[3] , Accessed on 15.01.2017


Disposal of Insulating Materials Containing HBCD – German Government Grants Deferral

by Carsten Schaffors, GBA Laboratory Group

In our September 2016 newsletter, we reported on the ban on the production and circulation of products containing over 100 mg/kg of the flame retardant hexa­bro­mocyclododecane (HBCD). Furthermore, as of September 30th, 2016, ma­terials containing over 1,000 mg/kg are no longer allowed to be recycled. In­stead, they should be destroyed in muni­cipal waste incineration plants in accor­dance with Art. 7 (2) of the POP Regulation (EC) No 850/2004.

In certain German federal states, however, the application of the regulation tends to impede rather than promote the desired method of disposal. In some cases, the material cannot be incinerated due to its classification as “hazardous waste” (e.g. in cement plants in Rhineland-Palatinate). Moreover, many waste management com­panies and incineration plants either cannot accept this waste anymore or only at excessive prices, because this waste doesn’t fit within their logistical concept or the functionality of the facility. Due to this, housing compa­nies in particular have prob­lems disposing of the insulating material in accor­dance with the legal require­ments.

Therefore, on December 16th, 2016, based on a proposal from Saarland, the Ger­man Bundesrat decided on a draft to amend the regulation on the European List of Waste. It is indisputable that HBCD is hazardous to the environment and must be removed from circulation. However, in order to counteract this problem, a one-year exemption should be issued for materials containing HBCD. This is meant to allow for a sustainable solution to be found, for a concept to be gene­rated, and, where necessary, for the waste incineration plants to be upgraded appropriately. Nevertheless, it is not intended to mean that materials contain HBCD should once again be classified as nonhazardous. The exemption merely serves to help meet the legal requirements for disposing of these materials in the future.

For years, the GBA Laboratory Group has been conducting analyses of a wide range of organic and inorganic flame-retardants in diverse matrices. In addition to testing heat insulation and electronic products, we also analyze these sub­stance groups in sediment, water, soil, and biota samples, even at trace levels. Furthermore, we follow the latest developments on the market for you, so that we may continue to support you with competent advice and service.

If you have any questions about this or any other topic in the fields of en­vironmental analysis, then please contact your individual account manager at the GBA Laboratory Group or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Herr Ralf Murzen
Tel. +49 (0)4101 7946-0

[2] Plenarprotokoll-952.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=2   


Detecting and Labeling Allergens in Food

by Julia Bitner, GBA Laboratory Group

Food allergies are not uncommon, currently about two to four percent of adults and four to eight percent of children are affected by them, and there is an up­ward trend. “True” food allergies involve adverse reactions to certain food pro­ducts that are induced by a misguided reaction from the immune system. This is triggered by certain proteins that cause the affected person’s immune system to overreact. The intensity of an allergic reaction varies from person to person. Asi­de from merely causing reactions in the mucous membranes, it can also cause serious and life-threatening complications (e.g. anaphylactic shock). In addition to “true” food allergies, there are also food intolerances such as lactose or glu­ten intolerance (celiac disease). The difference between the two conditi­ons is that the food intolerances are not accompanied by an immunologic res­ponse.[1]

In order to offer better protection and a higher quality of life to people affected by these conditions, lawmakers have decided that it is necessary to label pro­ducts that include ingredients that can trigger reactions from allergies or into­lerances. This applies to 14 ingredients and/or allergens, as well as products made from them, which are listed in Annex II of the law on food information to consumers: (EU) No 1169/2011. The requirement to label these allergens is likewise valid for all products processed from these ingredients acting as aller­gens and for any processing aids used in the production. However, there are also ingredients that lose their allergenic potential through the processing or during production and therefore do not need to be labeled.[2,3]

In order to enable the consumer to effortlessly recognize the substances that could trigger reactions related to allergies or intolerances, these must be repre­sented on the ingredient list of packaged food products in an emphasized way (e.g. by bold or italics typeface, or use of color). Also, the term used to describe the ingredient must also make it recognizable that it originates from an allergen (e.g. whole milk powder, starch (wheat), aroma (contains soy). For food pro­ducts without an ingredient list, an indication of the allergens that they contain must be provided. For example, for wine that means stating “contains sulfi­tes.”[4] In addition to packaged food products, it is also mandatory to label and provide information on allergens for non-packaged food (e.g. in restaurants, cafe­terias, and at shop counters for baked goods and meat products). The information can be provided in two ways: either in writing or verbally. Written information may be provided in the form of a sign, a poster, or an indication on the menu as well as on the price list. If the infor­mation is provided verbally, there must be a sign or poster indicating that this is an option.[5]  The infor­mation must be provided by the food company itself or by a trained professio­nal. Additionally, there must be written documentation available, which the con­sumer may view upon request.[4]

Fundamentally, it can be said that the labeling requirements currently only apply to allergens that are directly used as an ingredient in the food products. If an allergen ends up in a food product as an impurity (via cross-contamination), e.g. in a facility where both allergenic and allergen-free food products are manu­factured, then this unintentional allergen is not subject to the labeling require­ments. In contrast to an actual ingredient, this kind of allergen does not enter the foodstuff as part of the recipe – or even intentionally – and there are current­ly no binding legal regulations for this case.[4] However, for liability reasons, most manufacturers voluntarily indicate that a food product could contain trace amounts of allergens due to cross-contamination. Since such declarations are provided voluntarily, it means that similar food products that don’t include this kind of statement may nevertheless contain undesired allergen contamination. On the other hand, long lists of potential allergen traces are provided as a pre­caution on some food products, although these allergens are not necessarily present in the products, which therefore only serves to unsettle the consumer.[5] At the moment, there is a worldwide effort to establish legal regulations for these kinds of cases. In Germany, expert committees from the food monitoring agencies of the federal states (ALTS and ALS) have published assessment values, which have been designed to simplify the evaluation of test results for allergens that are not subject to declaration. The assessment values are based on current analytical capabilities as well as available results of clinical studies. It should also be noted that the assessment values are “internal action values,” that is to say, harmonized orientation values for the monitoring agencies in Germany, and they do not represent legally binding limit values. When an aller­gen is detected but not declared, then the scale of the orientation value indica­tes whether or not a report should be issued by the monitoring agency. The re­port in turn would contain a recommendation to examine whether the allergen entered the product through an ingredient, which would indicate a breech of the labeling regulations. In individual cases, a risk assessment should take into ac­count the expected serving size of the product and the threshold dose, which is reached when 100 g of the foodstuff is consumed. If it is determined that a pro­duct bearing the statement “free of…” exceeds the action value, then generally it must be assessed as a health hazard according to Article 14 (2) (a) and par. 4 (c) of the Regulation (EC) No 178/2002.[6]

For consumer protection and for adequate labeling, a reliable allergen analysis is absolutely essential. For the vast majority of allergens, analytical methods have already been developed that are sensitive enough to detect any amounts that are allergologically relevant. These methods are either based upon immu­nochemical or molecular biological technology. The immunochemical methods include the Lateral Flow Test and the ELISA test. In both of these methods, the allergen detection is conducted by binding a specific antibody to an antigen, which can be either a protein or a protein fraction of a foodstuff allergen. The La­teral Flow Test is a quick test and is often used in the food industry in the con­text of allergen management (HACCP) in food production facilities. The test strips can be utilized throughout the entire production process, from checking the raw materials to the final quality control tests of the finished product, as well as for hygienic measures that accompany the process. The quick test is easy to handle and the result is available within 5 to 10 minutes. The detection limits are in the lower milligram per kilogram range.[7] However, large amounts of aller­gens can potentially lead to a false negative result.

Besides this qualitative test, if a quantitative test is also desired, then the ELISA test is ideally suited for this purpose. ELISA tests are also simple to handle and provide quantitative results within about 30 to 50 minutes. In general, the ELISA tests are very specific and react selectively to the specific allergen protein that should be analyzed. In rare cases, however, when similar or related proteins are analyzed, there could be a higher cross-reaction, which would then provide in a false-positive result.[8] Due to this issue, there are currently no ELISA kits available specifically for detecting celery, because of the potential for cross-reactions between celery, carrots, cucumbers, birch pollen, and mugwort pollen, as well as a range of spices.

In addition to these two immunochemical tests, the PCR method is also avai­lable, which is a molecular biological test for detecting allergens. In contrast to the immunochemical tests, the PCR method is not based on the detection of the allergen proteins, but detecting the DNA of the food allergen. The main advan­tages of the PCR test are its selectivity and sensitivity, as well as the potential to test for several allergens simultaneously. This test can be conducted as either a qualitative or a quantitative test. However, there are also certain disadvantages to this method. The DNA detection does not allow any direct correlation to be made with the actual amount of the allergen protein available in the sample.[7] Using PCR testing, it is not always possible to detect the presence of cow’s milk or chicken’s eggs. If there is meat in the food product, then PCR test can lead to a false-positive result because the DNA is not specific to the kind of tissue, so there is no difference between the cow’s milk and beef or chicken eggs and their meat on a DNA level.[8] Aside from that, one should also keep in mind that the PCR test could potentially be susceptible to processing and matrix effects. Insufficient sample preparation or DNA extraction can also have an influence on the result of an allergen test.

Whether PCR or ELISA is the best method for testing for allergens ultimately de­pends on several factors, for example the sensitivity and specificity of the method, the degree of processing, and the composition of the food sample. Both methods complement each other well and therefore should be used for the reciprocal validation of screenings and positive results.

Testing allergens has been an established part of the GBA Laboratory Group’s analytical portfolio for many years now. Moreover, we have also been mo­nitoring the developments in this field. If you have any questions about this topic, then please contact your individual account manager at the GBA Labo­ratory Group or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Ms. Vera Montag
Tel: +49 (0)40 797172-0

[1], Accessed on 02.01.2017
[2] Verpflichtende Kennzeichnung / Allgemeine_ Kennzeichnungsvorschriften/_Texte/Allergenkennzeichnung.html, Accessed on 02.01.2017
[3] EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX: 32011R1169&from=EN, Accessed on 02.01.2017
[4], Accessed on 02.01.2017
[5] allergen-kennzeichnung, Accessed on 02.01.2017
[6] 01_Lebensmittel/ALS_ ALTS/ALTS_Beschluesse_74_ Arbeitstagung_Dez_2014.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=2, Accessed on 06.01.2017
[7] Netzwerk_und_Strukturen/ Fachgruppen/ Lebensmittelchemiker /Arbeitsgruppen/analytik/stellungnahme_ allergenanalytik_ 2015.pdf, Accessed on 03.01.2017
[8] 18_Fischer_SEP0112.pdf, Accessed on 03 Jan 2017



February – Time for Trade Fairs!

by Sabine Nest, GBA Laboratory Group

It’s that time again, the new year has begun and we are standing at the starting gates for our trade fairs.

In the field of food analysis, you can meet us at the following trade fairs and events in February. Schedule an appointment with one of the representatives listed below or talk to your individual account manager:

Fruit Logistica, Berlin, February 8th – 10th, 2017: Hall 21, Stand F-02,
   Ms. Julia Bitner,
BioFach, Nuremberg, February 15th – 18th, 2017: Hall 9, Stand 09-413,
   Ms. Julia Bitner,
Food Safety Kongress, Berlin, February 21st – 22nd, 2017: nhow Hotel,
   Ms. Mareen Lehmann,

In the field of environmental analysis, we’ll be there for you at the following events:

DCONex, Essen, February 1st – 2nd, 2017: Hall CC West 2nd floor / Stand 07,
   Mr. Franz Bogler,
23rd Demolition Conference, Berlin, March 10th – 11th, 2017: Maritim Hotel,
   Mr. Franz Bogler,
ITVA Altlastensymposium, Bremen: March 30th – 31st, 2017: Maritim
  Congress Centrum Bremen (CCB),
 Mr. Franz Bogler,

You can also set up an appointment for these trade fairs with the representative listed above. Of course, your individual account manager will gladly assist you as well.

We are looking forward to your visit!


The GBA Laboratory Group Supports German Foundation for Children with Cancer

by Sabine Nest, GBA Laboratory Group

As we begin the new year, one special project has been near and dear to our hearts at the GBA Laboratory Group. With our Christmas donation of € 10,000, we supported the Waldpiraten or “Forest Pirates” Camp, a project run by the Deutsche Kinderkrebsstiftung, the German foundation for children with cancer.  
During the school vacation, special activities are offered for children and adole­scents with cancer, as well as their siblings. Under the leadership of trained coun­selors, the camp offers everything that helps them recover from this severe disea­se and to find new courage in life. Furthermore, part of the money flows into a social fund that provides financial support for families that have run into financial hardship due to their child’s cancer.

With this donation, we are pleased that we are able to help make a positive impact!

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