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Wissen, was drin ist.


December 2014
  • Artificial Sweeteners in Water
  • Pesticide or Pollutant?
  • New Labeling Regulation for Food Products
  • Anniversary Donation to the Hamburger Tafel e.V. (Hamburg Food Pantry)

Dear Readers,

the holidays are coming up soon and an eventful year for the GBA Laboratory is running out. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for placing your trust in our company and for working together with us in friendly cooperation. Without you, we would not be where we are today, and therefore I am looking forward to continue doing business together with you in the upcoming year.

At the GBA Laboratory Group, social commitment is of utmost importance and strongly anchored in our company´s philosophy. Therefore, once again we would like to help people in need this year, in particular those who have had to flee their homeland for political or religious reasons, or due to other circumstances, as well as those who have been exiled and are therefore dependent on the support of others.

With a donation to the charitable organization "UNO Flüchtlingshilfe e.V." (UN Refugee Aid Association), we would like to help those who are not able to experience the feeling of being at home, especially during the Christmas season. In particular during the cold winter months, relief supplies and food aid are indispensable.

We are confident you will agree that the money has gone to a good cause.

I wish you and your families a peaceful Christmas celebration and a healthy, happy new year in 2015!

Yours sincerely,

Manfred Giesecke
Managing Director and Shareholder
GBA Laboratory Group


Artificial Sweeteners in Water

by Dr. Katri Mehrländer and Stefan Jäger, GBA Laboratory Group

In modern diets, sweeteners and artificial sugars are playing an ever greater role, due to the fact that they can provide up to 1000 times the sweetness as refined sugar. The significantly lower calorie content as well as the dental benefits make consumers reach even more frequently for food products, beverages, and hygienic products (e.g. tooth paste) that contain artificial sweeteners instead of common types of sugar.

Among the most common sweeteners, there are acesulfame potassium, cyclamate, saccharin und sucralose. Additionally, further sweeteners such as aspartame and neotame are also used. The majority of sweeteners that are consumed in food products will be discharged from the body unaltered, thus ending up in waste water. Scientific studies have demonstrated that some sweeteners, such as cyclamate and saccharin are subject to relatively high elimination rates in water treatment facilities, whereas other sweeteners such as acesulfame potassium and sucralose, however, are only partially removed [1].

Based on the clearly limited usage for these substances in daily life, when sweeteners are detected in water that is used to collect drinking water, one can prove that there was direct contact with waste water. Especially drinking water extracting plants that rely upon riverbank filtrates, either entirely or partially, are susceptible to this kind of cross-contamination. Yet also wells that gain water from shallow depths or have contact with the surface can be affected [1]. Above all, any drinking water that is to be used as table water should be free of sweeteners.

Natural mineral water, according to §2 of the Mineral and Table Water Regulation, originates from underground sources that are protected from contamination and has its original purity level [2]. In 2014, the testing group Stiftung Warentest detected the sweetener acesulfame potassium in 7 of the 30 natural mineral waters that they tested [3]. Since acesulfame potassium is discharged from humans unaltered and is not completely removed from waste water in water treatment facilities, it can travel through the groundwater into the deep mineral water supply wells. Due to this, the original purity of natural mineral waters could be jeopardized.

The GBA Laboratory Group has developed a method for the determination of sweeteners in water using HPLC-MS/MS technology, based on the norm DIN 38407 (F36) (the determination of selected pesticide active agents and other organic substances), and is thus capable of detecting sweeteners even at trace levels in groundwater, drinking water, and mineral water [4].

If you have any further questions about this topic, please feel free to contact us:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Dr. Katri Mehrländer
Stefan Jäger

Tel: +49 (0)5151 9849-0


[1] M. Scheurer, H.-J- Brauch, F.T. Lange: Die süße Seite der Wasseranalytik, GIT Labor-Fachzeitschrift 10/2009, pp. 660-663
[2] Verordnung über natürliches Mineralwasser, Quellwasser und Tafelwasser i.d. aktuellen Fassung
[3] Stiftung Warentest, Volume 08/2014, pp. 20-27: „Die Reinheit geht baden“
[4] DIN 38407-36:2014-09 – Bestimmung ausgewählter Pflanzenschutzmittelwirkstoffe und anderer organischer Stoffe in Wasser – Verfahren mittels Hochleistungs-Flüssigkeitschromatographie und massenspektrometrischer Detektion (HPLC-MS/MS bzw. –HRMS) nach Direktinjektion


Pesticide or Pollutant? – A question of great importance for assessing foodstuff according to food law requirements and for determining tradability

by Dr. Frank Schütt, GBA Laboratory Group

Pesticides are used worldwide almost everywhere that plants are cultivated. Within the EU, the resulting residues of these substances are assessed according the regulation (EC) 396/2005. In addition to specific maximum residue values for approximately 550 named substances, in the EU there is also a general maximum residue value of 0.01 mg/kg of food for every additional substance that is defined as a pesticide. A large portion of the substances that are considered pesticides in the EU (called "active substances") are found in the regulation (EC) 1107/2009, which also contains the definition of a pesticide. In the annex to this regulation there are currently over 1,300 substances listed. Therefore, it should be possible to clearly differentiate substances and legally evaluate them without error. A potential consequence of exceeding the maximum values could be that certain cultures then refrain from using certain pesticides.

In recent years, however, substances that must be considered pesticides according to these regulations have repeatedly been detected in agricultural commodities, although these substances could not be traced back to usage as pesticides, despite comprehensive studies.

For example, this is the case for the fungicide active agent, biphenyl, which has repeatedly been detected in German herbs from organic farming in significant amounts. Subsequently, this substance was also found in other herbs and teas, from both organic and conventional farming. Biphenyl, which used to be allowed as a surface treatment agent for citrus fruits, lost its approval in 2005. Based on the precept that an unapproved agent would not be utilized and therefore no residue should be expected in agricultural products, no specific maximum value was set and thus the general maximum value of 0.01 mg/kg was valid. This maximum was exceeded in approximately 70% of the herb and tea samples mentioned. However, the (prohibited) usage of biphenyl was not verified in any of the cases. A very intense search for the true origin of the substance led to the smoke and exhaust from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, charcoal, or oil. Since biphenyl is generated in the combustion process of these materials, it is possible that contamination may occur during the drying process of agricultural goods, if these dryers are powered by fossil fuels. Yet general environmental contamination could also be the cause of these biphenyl findings. In the German organic herbs mentioned before, the concentrations of biphenyl were the highest in the spring, around the time of the traditional Easter bonfires.

Although one could assume that biphenyl contamination may have occurred in this way, it had no influence on the legal assessment. In fact, since biphenyl from these sources fits the definition of a contaminant according to the regulation (EEC) 315/93, the policy is that a substance that has at any time been defined as a pesticide, always remains a pesticide and must be assessed as such. Thus, it was necessary to raise the maximum residue levels, which occurred on a nationwide level in Germany in 2010 and throughout the EU in 2011. This allowed a long period of legal uncertainty for biphenyl to come to an end, as well as the lack of formal trade approval for a large portion of teas and herbal products.

In addition to biphenyl, in recent years there have been reports of other substances that must be assessed as pesticides, but in fact end up in the product as contaminants, and thus frequently brought about the same problems regarding the difficulty of prevention and the inadequate maximum levels. This includes, among others, copper and mercury compounds, ortho-phenylphenol, nicotine, quaternary ammonium compounds, and chlorate.
Just as these substances and groups of substances are diverse, the potential and verified contamination routes are equally various, as well as the attempts to determine and adjust the maximum residue values.

That's why, at the end of a legislative process, there is not always a maximum value that meets the practical demands of the situation, as the following example may illustrate:
Anthraquinone is a substance that is considered a pesticide according to (EC) 1107/2009 because of its effect as a bird deterrent. It is neither approved on an EU level nor is there evidence of usage in other countries. For years, however, anthraquinone was an approved substance for usage in paper production. For this reason, anthraquinone findings in teas –which have come into focus since 2011– had been explained merely as contamination from the packaging material. Yet, this explanation ignores a source of contamination that is far more important due to the following insight: as is the case with biphenyl, anthraquinone is also formed during the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, charcoal, and oil. The increase in the maximum residue level from 0.01 mg/kg to 0.02 mg/kg, which went into effect on Jan 18th, 2014, appears to be very low, in light of multiple test results and considering that it is impossible to remove the most likely source of contamination quickly and pervasively.

One can assume that in the future there will be more substances identified that occur both as pesticides and as pollutants, thus leading to similar problems in the legal assessment of foodstuff. For this reason, it will remain highly important to apply high performance analyses and subsequently to assess and evaluate the results in a way that incorporates official appraisals as well as statements from scientific institutions and associations.

If you have any further questions about this topic, please feel free to contact:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Dr. Frank Schütt
Tel: +49 (0)40 79 71 72-0


New Labeling Regulation for Food Products

by Anika Prause and Mareen Lehmann, GBA Laboratory Group

On December 13th, 2014, the Food Information Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 will go into effect with mandatory compliance. This law regulates various guidelines concerning the labeling of food products. Starting on this date, all packages and labels must conform with the labeling regulations stipulated in this regulation. This leads to certain questions for the field of food production and wholesale:

-    Which required labeling elements must be present on new packaging?
-    Which changes to the previous legal basis have arisen?
-    Which topics will still be processed according to the basic regulation in the
      next few years?

Some of the most important changes are the following:

•    The minimum font size of all obligatory declarations
In the food labeling regulation that is currently still valid, the font size is not specifically defined. This changes with the new Food Information Regulation, which sets the font size at 1.2 mm or 0.9 mm depending on the size of the packaging. This is meant to ensure that the product information is clearly legible for the consumer.

•    The Table of Nutrients
The "Big 8" and the "Big 4" will be combined into one unified table of nutrients, the "Big 7." This will become one of the mandatory declarations for finished packaging as well as on unpackaged goods. Bottled water and food supplements are among the items exempted from this rule (see Annex V). The obligatory declarations are the energy, total fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein, and salt (in this order), which must be provided per 100 g or 100 ml of the product. Optionally, the nutritional content may also be listed per serving size and reference value.

•    Allergens/Intolerances
Ingredients that could trigger allergies or intolerances must be clearly distinguished (e.g. emphasized by the typeset). This required declaration is not only valid for prepacked food products, but also for non prepacked goods, in order to constantly protect the consumer.

•    Field of Vision
The requirements for the declarations to be located within one field of vision have been simplified. According to the previous regulation, the declarations for the product designation, the best before date, the alcohol content (for beverages with an alcohol content of more than 1.2 % by volume), and the quantity per pack have to be clearly placed within one field of vision for the consumer. The Food Information Regulation, however, no longer requires the best before date to be within this field of vision.

•    Indication of Origin
Due to the Food Information Regulation, an indication of the country of origin will be mandatory for the meat of swine, sheep, goats, and poultry. This required declaration is applicable for fresh, chilled, or frozen meat. However, it does not apply to processed meat products.
The EU Commission is currently discussing an expansion of this declaration for various additional food product groups.
Depending on the product and the packaging, different labeling requirements are relevant. Only a few of the changes are mentioned in this brief article.

We will gladly check your existing packaging or new labeling to see if it conforms to the requirements of the Food Information Regulation.

Please contact your personal customer service representative or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Mareen Lehmann
Tel: +49 (0)40 79 71 72-0

We are looking forward to your inquiry.

Source: EUR-Lex, , 04.11.2014


Anniversary Donation to the Hamburger Tafel e.V. (Hamburg Food Pantry)

by Carsten Schaffors, GBA Laboratory Group

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the company's foundation, the GBA Laboratory Group decided to share its success with other people and has made a monetary donation to social projects throughout Germany. The portion from the northern German GBA lab sites in Hamburg Harburg and Pinneberg was dedicated to the Hamburg Food Pantry (Hamburger Tafel e.V.). With the donation of 5,000 EUR, this charitable foundation can purchase vitamin-rich vegetables or other basic necessities for the 15,000 guests that they serve every week. Since one of the donor's main fields of business is the analysis of food, there is a direct connection to the donation itself.
Manfred Giesecke, Managing Director, said: "With this donation, we would like to bring joy to those who, due to various misfortunes, are dependent on the help of others." The company's founder, Dr. Dr. Erich Doellefeld, explained: "Social responsibility has always been an important aspect for GBA, and we hope that we are able to help as many people as possible this way, thereby letting them have a piece of our success over the last 25 years."

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