Welcome to the Government Chemist blog by Nick Boley
June 27, 2012, 14:49
Filed under: Government Chemist Information

Welcome to the Government Chemist blog.

The blog is here to pass on information from the Government Chemist (GC) Advisory Function and any other appropriate information regarding analytical measurements in the context of  regulatory or legislative developments. It replaces the monthly updates which I have been posting for several months and is designed to be a more informal tool for disseminating information, receiving feedback and stimulating discussion and debate.

All feedback is gratefully received – let me know what you think of the blog and what type of information you’d like to see.


Who is the Government Chemist and what does he do? by Ellie Gadd
July 17, 2015, 09:10
Filed under: Government Chemist Information | Tags:

This is a question that Government Chemist Programme Manager Daniel Scott answered during a recent informal presentation for LGC staff. The Government Chemist function is housed within LGC – an international life sciences measurement and testing company – and Daniel explained the history of the role to the group of employees. Watch our video to find out more…

Our legislation updates are moving by Nick Boley
June 24, 2015, 11:17
Filed under: Government Chemist Information

Our regular updates on legislative changes that relate to chemical measurement and the role of the Government Chemist are moving to our main website pages on GOV.UK.

These updates provide information on scientific and regulatory issues that affect the measurement community and as a result, are receiving increasing volumes of web traffic. To ensure that these updates are easily accessible, and to maximise their reach, they have been moved to GOV.UK/governmentchemist.

To ensure you continue to receive these updates, subscribe to our news alerts.

We will be continuing to post blogs providing commentary on our activities delivered under the Government Chemist programme, including publishing presentation slides, information on our training and blogs signposting you to media coverage.

Our recent updates on GOV.UK are:

CEN update: information affecting chemical measurements

Restricted substances in electrical and electronic equipment

Amendment to ecological criteria for paints and varnishes

Latest allergen research shared by Government Chemist at international workshop by Ellie Gadd
June 10, 2015, 10:52
Filed under: Allergies | Tags:

Group photo ROMER ACADEMYFood analysts and scientists from across Europe heard the latest research on food allergies undertaken by the Government Chemist during a special workshop in Austria.

Michael Walker, consultant referee analyst for the Government Chemist programme, was invited to take part in the workshop to share his expertise on recent referee cases in the UK and to hear about the various methods for analysis.

The two-day workshop was organised by Romer Labs Ltd and was held at its head office in Tulln, near Vienna, Austria, last week.  Romer Labs is a specialist food testing company that works closely with the Centre for Analytical Chemistry of the University of Vienna and manufactures ELISA kits which are used in a wide range of food analysis.  The two-day workshop was intended for professionals involved in food allergen management and included delegates from food companies in the UK, Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain. Attendees had the chance to try modern screening methods, instructed by experienced experts and the opportunity to adapt them to their own requirements.

Michael gave an introduction to food allergy and, based on research carried out under the Government Chemist Programme, discussed  the pros and cons of the principle techniques for analysis of allergens – ELISA, PCR and Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).

Routine and confirmatory quality control approaches were discussed and delegates learned how to interpret results based on the Allergen Bureau VITAL (Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling) system and EAACI (European Academy of Allergy & Clinical Immunology) Guideline reference doses for major allergens. Michael reviewed recent cases of cumin and paprika containing undeclared almond, and concluded with the following recommendations for future work:

  • Research on causes and ‘cures’ of food allergy will yield good useable outcomes, but need much more work on fundamental immunology.
  • Food businesses hold responsibility for dealing with allergen cross-contamination; thresholds will help but this requires a lot more dialogue with stakeholders such as patient support groups, and further research.
  • Deaths from food allergies are rare but thorough investigation of food allergy deaths, particularly in the catering sector, is required. The skills and capacity for investigations should be improved and supply chains must be rigorously examined if adulteration or contamination with the fatal allergen occurred.
  • The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (1169/2011) has made good progress on provision of allergen information since it came into force in December 2014 but robust enforcement on non-compliers needs to start soon.
  • Knowledge and skills gaps need to be addressed for the investigation and prosecution of potentially serious incidents of food allergen mismanagement and mislabelling.
  • A tenacious approach is required in these investigations, e.g. early realisation that samples of food and/or stomach contents should be retained and analysed.
  • Analysis urgently needs to be improved. There is a need for more reference materials, better bioinformatics, and metrological traceability is required.

Food fraud forum: listen on demand by Ellie Gadd
June 3, 2015, 13:13
Filed under: Food and Feed | Tags: ,

A panel of four leading experts, including Michael Walker (consultant referee analyst for the Government Chemist Programme) discuss food adulteration, fraud and prevention during a webinar organised by FoodQualityNews.

The Food Fraud Forum, which was broadcast live on 27 May 2015, is available to listen to on demand.   It also featured Dr John Spink, from Michigan State University, Chris Van Gundy, from Keller and Heckman LLP, and Dr Paul Brereton from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

Michael, who was a subject matter expert for Professor Chris Elliott during the Elliott review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks, described the Elliott review process and answered questions on definitions of food fraud (misdescription of food for financial gain), and the prevention of food fraud.

The engaging discussion included questions submitted live by listeners and covered a range of topics, including the risks industry faces throughout the supply chain, from those making the ingredients to the retailer selling the final product.

Around 200 people listened in, many with questions posed in quick-fire fashion to the panellists by Joe Whitworth, a French-based journalist with FoodQualityNews who organised and moderated the forum.

The current issues around the cumin recalls (rescinded in Canada) were touched on, as well as trust and traceability in the supply chain. The panellists agreed fraud had been in the supply chain for a long time, and was here to stay, but gave practical suggestions on how to put barriers in the way to – as John Spink put it – “keep the bad guys out of your business”.

New devices approved for drug driving testing by Nick Boley
May 27, 2015, 16:05
Filed under: Drugs, Forensics, UK Government Information | Tags: , ,

The Home Office have approved two further devices for carrying out roadside testing in cases of suspected driving whilst under the influence of illegal drugs.

The two devices are:

  • Draeger DrugTest 5000, previously approved for preliminary drug testing in 2012, and now for mobile preliminary drug testing from March 2015 for cannabis and cocaine
  • Securetec DrugWipe 3S S303G, approved for mobile preliminary drug testing from December 2014 for cannabis and cocaine

These are welcome developments in having validated and reliable testing devices available to police forces for the detection of drug driving. Devices for the detection of other illegal drugs are not yet available and, as we posted previously, no certified reference materials (CRMs) are available as yet to support these devices and their use. This distinguishes them from the roadside testing regime in place for drink driving cases.

Food allergy: Challenges and developments by Ellie Gadd
May 26, 2015, 11:48
Filed under: Allergies, Food and Feed | Tags:

Michael Walker, consultant referee analyst for the Government Chemist programme, gave a comprehensive talk on food allergies, touching on why food allergies are increasing and what is being done to counter this, during an All Island Environmental Health Forum conference on 21-22 May in Cork.

The conference was organised by the Environmental Health Association of Ireland (EHAI) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Northern Ireland (CIEH NI).

Michael’s talk was part of the Thursday morning session on ‘Rethinking ‘Safe Food’ chaired by Peter Gaffey, Chairman, EHAI. Following a welcome by Peter and Ursula Walsh Chairman, CIEH NI, the opening address was given by Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Anneke Toorop, Policy Officer, European Commission DG Health and Food Safety, gave a keynote speech on intelligence and investigation of food crime in the Netherlands and administrative assistance and cooperation in enforcement at the EU level.

Michael’s talk, entitled ‘Food Allergy, Challenges and developments’, touched on what is known of the underlying immunological basis of food allergy, the comparative risks and the current developments. He described challenges in labelling, catering, and science-based enforcement, including the current controversy on alleged almond contamination of cumin. He discussed ‘thresholds’ and illustrated supply chain security using examples from his recent published study with Hazel Gowland on allergy cases in the UK courts.  

The presentation slides, Food allergy – Challenges and developments, are available to download.

Novel RMs produced to support WFD analyses by Nick Boley

Scientists at the European Commission’s Joint Research Laboratory (JRC), based in Geel (Belgium) have developed a series of three water reference materials (RMs) containing priority hazardous substances (PHS) as defined under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). These three novel materials contain:

  1. eight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),
  2. six polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and
  3. tributyltin

A recent report published under the Government Chemist’s Advisory Function on analytical measurement issues in relation to the WFD highlighted the dearth of reference materials to support laboratories carrying out monitoring of water bodies in support of the WFDs. These new materials provide an extremely welcome development to help and support monitoring laboratories in carrying out these measurements accurately and precisely at the very low concentrations required.