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Wissen, was drin ist.


April 2017

• Environmental Contaminants Series: BTEX
• Acrylamide
• Mycotoxins Series: Ochratoxins
• New Draft to Amend the Regulation on 
  Mineral Oils


Dear Readers,

we welcome you to our April newsletter. Both, the series of topics as well as our current articles from the environ­mental and food sector will keep you up to date with the latest developments.

Enjoy reading!
Your GBA Laboratory Group 


Environmental Contaminants Series: Volatile Aromatic Hydrocarbons (BTEX)

by Dr. Sven Steinhauer, GBA Laboratory Group

BTEX is an acronym that stands for the volatile aromatic hydrocarbons ben­zene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and the xylenes (meta-, para-, and ortho-). BTEX compounds are components of crude oil and also are generated when organic compounds are partially incinerated. They are important raw materials for the petrochemical industry and serve to increase the octane rating in gasoline. Fur­thermore, they are utilized as solvents and degreasing agents or as raw mate­rials in the chemical industry. If BTEX compounds end up in the environment, e.g. via seepage, they can be mobile or even highly mobile in the soil and groundwater. It reduces with the corresponding number of carbon atoms that are also attached to the benzene ring, that is, from benzene to toluene to the C2 (xylene, ethylbenzene), C3, and C4 aromatics. Due to the high vapor pressure, they can also spread long distances through the subsurface air. If the BTEX compounds are in phase, their low viscosity facilitates seepage. Due to their relatively high water-solubility, BTEX compounds can be transported via lea­chate and groundwater. They pass through the unsaturated (vadose) zone of the soil to the surface of the groundwater. Since their specific gravity is less than water, however, they cannot sink to the bed of the groundwater. When investigating, particular attention must be paid to the presence of benzene, because, in contrast to the other BTEX compounds, it is both harmful to the bloodstream and also carcinogenic.[1] BTEX compounds can be toxic for the liver and can lead to development of chronic nerve damage. In general, their natural degradability by microorganisms has been rated as low or negligible. Their microbial degradability is only relatively good when there are favorable aerobic surrounding conditions. That’s why BTEX compounds can still be found at contaminated sites years later and such sites generally have to be reme­diated. In Germany, when dealing with disposal, any soil material contaminated with BTEX (or other compounds) must be classified according to the technical rules (TR) provided by LAGA (Länderarbeitsgemeinschaft Abfall)[2] or based on the DepV (Deponieverordnung) regulation.[3]

In practice, when assessing soil material or waste with regards to these volatile aromatic hydrocarbons, the total of eight individual substances are taken into consideration for the “BTEX Sum” declaration: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylol (o-, m-, p-), styrene, and cumene. The laboratory analysis can be conduc­ted by using headspace gas chromatography. However, there are several stan­dard procedures available for this (e.g. static or dynamic headspace analysis, flame ionization detector (FID), or mass selective detector (MSD), etc.).[4] In order to ensure the quality of the analytical procedure, an internal standard (e.g. deuterated toluene-d8) is added when taking the sample and subsequently it is coated with a defined amount of methanol. After the sample is delivered to the laboratory in a chilled state, it is agitated for 30 minutes and subsequently an aliquot of the methanol phase is placed in a headspace vial with 10 ml of water. The container is sealed tightly and is brought to a defined temperature over a defined time. The equilibrium that occurs in the headspace phase over the sam­ple is then analyzed and quantified using a corresponding calibration.

Analyzing BTEX in a variety of matrices, including soil, water, air (e.g. subsur­face air), and sediment, has been an established part of the GBA Laboratory Group’s portfolio for many years. Our regular participation in a variety of official interlaboratory comparisons has repeatedly confirmed our high level of compe­tence, also in the field of organic trace analysis. The GBA Laboratory Group is continuing to update and expand the list of analytes that we test in our divisions for environmental, foodstuff, and pharmaceutical analysis, in order to meet the current growing demands and to remain by your side as your competent part­ner.

If you have any questions about this or any other topic, then our skilled analy­tical consultants will gladly provide you with the answers you need.

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Mr. Ralf Murzen
Tel: +49 (0)4101 / 79 46-0

[1]; accessed on 14.04.2017
[2]; accessed on 14.04.2017
[3]; accessed on 14.04.2017
[4]; accessed on 14.04.2017


Acrylamide – Amendment to the Regulation Bill

by Mareen Lehmann, GBA Laboratory Group

Acrylamide is generated when food that is rich in carbohydrates is heated strongly. During this process, the reducing sugar compounds react with the building blocks of protein (e.g. asparagine). Temperatures around 120°C pro­mote the generation of small amounts of acrylamide, yet there is a major in­crease starting at 170°C. This happens regardless whether the food is baked, grilled, roasted, pan-fried, deep-fried, or toasted.[1]

After discussions with the Member States and various interest groups, as well as a subsequent hearing concerning environmental issues, public health, and food safety (ENVI Committee), the EU Commission has published a new draft of a regulation concerning acrylamide in food. Essentially, the document indicates that the EU will continue to require the food producers in the relevant fields to implement codes of practice (CoP). The previous “indicative values” for acryla­mide should in future be termed “benchmark levels” and also be lowered signi­ficantly. The basis is provided by the data on acrylamide content that was collected by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) from 2011 to 2015. Furthermore, the draft contains both measures for regulating acrylamide content as well as the requirement to conduct testing and submit these results to the res­ponsible agencies upon request. If the benchmark levels are exceeded, then the producer must carry out the remedial measures to reduce the acrylamide content that are listed in the annex. The sample should be taken in accordance with the provisions of the Commission Regulation (EC) No 333/2007.[2]

The food companies that are affected by this regulation include those that pro­duce potato products (e.g. French fries, potato chips), bread and wheat pro­ducts, breakfast cereals, baked goods, coffee and coffee products, as well as baby food with a cereal basis.[2]

The European Union has communicated that their intentions concerning acryla­mide should be finalized without any further delay, so a vote by the Member States before the summer recess is likely.

The GBA Laboratory Group conducts testing for acry­lamide in food products and also provides you with comprehensive consulting on this issue. Of course, we will also continue to inform you about any new developments concerning this topic without delay.

If you have any questions, please contact your individual account manager or:

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


Thema Lebensmittel Acrylamid; Österreichische Agentur für Gesundheit und Ernährungssicherheit (AGES); accessed on 07.01.2014
[2] BLL – Bundesamt für Lebensmittelsicherheit und Lebensmittelkunde e.V., Rundschreiben BLL-156-2017; accessed on 29.03.2017


Mycotoxins Series: Ochratoxins

by Julia Bartels, GBA Laboratory Group

Ochratoxins, similar to aflatoxins, are fungal toxins that are formed by common storage mold. In comparison to aflatoxins and other mycotoxins, ochratoxins are found in the widest variety of food groups. They are most commonly generated when fungi contaminate any of several different types of grains (e.g. corn, oats, barley, wheat, rye, buckwheat, sorghum, rice), but can also be found in several kinds of fruit and vegetables (e.g. grapes, figs, citrus fruit) as well as spices, coffee, and cocoa. Even in processed food products, such as chocolate, wine, beer, fruit juices, and vegetable juices, it is not uncommon to find positive re­sults for ochratoxins.[1]

Several kinds of storage mold are capable of producing ochratoxins, including many Aspergillus and Penicillium species. However, Aspergillus ochraceus, Penicillium verrucosum, and Penicillium viridicatum are the most relevant. The optimal temperature for Aspergillus ochraceus is 25-28°C, whereas for the Peni­cillium species it is between 21 and 28°C. This also explains why the Aspergil­lus ochraceus is more commonly found in warmer regions and both of these Penicillium species tend to be found in more temperate regions. The growth of storage mold – and subsequently the potential generation of ochratoxins – is not only facilitated by the temperature, but also be the relative humidity levels during the harvest, processing, transport, and storage. Therefore, it can also be prevented to a great extent by using the proper technology for processing, trans­portation, and storage.[1]

Among all of the known ochratoxins, ochratoxin A (OTA) is the most important and most prevalent. Other ochratoxins exist as well, such as ochratoxin B, C, and D, however these are found far less frequently in food products and also in much smaller amounts, which is why they are relatively inconsequential. Fur­thermore, these other ochratoxins do not pose nearly the same risks to human health as ochratoxin A does. It attacks the immune system and also has both neurotoxic and teratogenic effects. Moreover, it is also nephrotoxic, having ad­verse effects on the kidneys and liver. Due to the carcinogenic properties found in animal testing, it has been classified as a potentially carcinogenic compound for humans. The acute toxicity of ochratoxin A is relatively high; depending on the animal species, the median lethal dose (LD50) is between 2 and 20 mg/kg.[1] An expert panel from the European Food Safety Authority utilized the lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) of 8 µg/kg body weight per day for pigs as well as a composite uncertainty factor of 450 in order to derive a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) for humans of 120 ng/kg b.w. per week for ochratoxin A.[2]

Commissioned by the European Union Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), calculations were made for various European countries, yielding the result that the total daily intake of ochratoxin A is between 15 and 60 ng/kg. For average consumers, the majority of their ochratoxin A intake results from consuming plant-based food. However, animal-based food products represent additional source. Ochratoxin A can be found in various kinds of animal tissue, especially in pigs. It is absorbed via the animal feed and is only excreted very slowly. That means in order to ensure that the slaughtered livestock is free of toxins, pigs would have to be provided with toxin-free feed four weeks long and poultry re­quires five days of toxin-free feed. Cattle are a special exception, because in their first stomach, the rumen, the activity of the microorganisms metabolizes ochratoxin A into the benign ochratoxin alpha, which is why one wouldn’t expect to find results in beef and milk. Caution is only advised when dealing with young calves, as long as the rumen microflora is not yet fully developed.[1]

As is the case with aflatoxins, the toxicological relevance of ochratoxin A means that its content should generally be kept as low as reasonably achievable with the available technology for production and processing – the ALARA principle. Furthermore, the Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 defines the legal­ly permissible maximum level for ochratoxin A in foodstuffs.[3] There are no le­gally binding maximum levels for animal feed, however there are recommended guidance values provided in the Commission Recommendation 2006/576/EC.[4]

The analysis of ochratoxin A has been an established part of the GBA Labora­tory Group’s portfolio of analytical methods for many years. If you have any questions about this or any other topic, then please feel free to 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 10.04.2017
[2], accessed on 10.04.2017
[3], accessed on 10.04.2017
[4], accessed on 10.04.2017


New Draft to Amend the Regulation on Mineral Oils in Food Packaging and a Call for Monitoring

by Mareen Lehmann, GBA Laboratory Group

In the June/July 2016 issue of the GBA Newsletter, we reported on mineral oil hydrocarbon contamination in foodstuff and the associated health risks. Cur­rently, we would like to update you on the latest developments that have arisen from both the EU Commission and also the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

With the Commission Recommendation (EU) 2017/84 of 16 January 2017, the EU Commission motions for “the monitoring of mineral oil hydrocar­bons in food and in materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.” With the active participation of the food industry, the presence of mineral oil hydrocar­bons (MOH) should be monitored in food products and animal fat (e.g. bread and rolls, fine bakery wares, breakfast cereals, confectionary (including chocola­te) and cocoa, fish meat, fish products (canned fish), grains for human con­sumption, ice-creams and desserts, oilseeds, pasta, cereal-based products, le­guminous vegetables, sausages, tree nuts, vegetable oils) as well as the con­tact materials (such as packaging) that are used with these products. In order to ensure uniform monitoring, specific guidance should be developed in the con­text of the recommendation. Furthermore, the Member States should conduct food sampling according to the provisions stipulated in Commission Regulation (EC) No 333/2007. A particular focus should be placed on the evaluation of the analytical results. There should be clear differentiation between saturated and aromatic MOH in order to ensure the reliability and comparability of the data that is generated. If MOH is detected in food, further testing should be conducted in the food business operations in order to enable a statement to be made concer­ning potential sources.[1]

At the same time, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) has taken an additional step towards nationwide regulation by publishing an amended draft of the 22nd Ordinance Amending the Food Contact Regulation (22. Verordnung zur Änderung der Bedarfsgegenständeverordnung). Compared to the previous draft, the regulations on mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) are no longer subject to specific regulatory criteria “due to the issues of defining and analytically delineating acceptable MOSH (e.g. certain waxes and processing aids).” The draft regulation still pertains to the migration of mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) from food contact materials made of recyc­led paper. According to the draft, any food contact material that contains paper or cardboard produced from recycled fibers must be produced with a functional barrier that ensures no mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) migrate from the food contact material to the food product. If the total amount of mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH C16 to C35) in 1 kg of foodstuff or food simulant is below a limit of detection of 0.5 mg, then any MOAH migration is considered to be negligible. A functional barrier does not have to be provided if certain con­ditions are fulfilled, in particular, if the amount of mineral oil aromatic hydrocar­bons is so small that a migration to the foodstuff cannot reasonably be expec­ted, or if the producer or distributor of the food contact material has taken other measures to prevent the migration of mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons to the food product.[2]

The GBA Laboratory Group has also integrated the analysis of mineral oil hydrocarbons into our portfolio of analytical methods and we will continue to monitor the latest developments in this field.

If you have any questions, please contact your individual account manager or:

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


[1], accessed on 18.04.2017
[2] Bund für Lebensmittelrecht und Lebensmittelkunde e.V., BLL Rundschreiben BLL-127-2017; a
ccessed on 10.04.2017

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