Trainee public analysts attend intensive week-long residential course by Ellie Gadd
April 30, 2015, 10:49
Filed under: Food and Feed | Tags: ,

The annual residential training course, organised for trainee public analysts by the Government Chemist programme, was a huge success with fantastic feedback from the delegates.

The course was held at the University of Reading from 20-24 April and featured a mix of lectures, laboratory practical sessions and interactive exercises over an intensive week-long schedule; it included three 12-hour days.

Some of the delegates are studying for the Mastership in Chemical Analysis (MChemA), the statutory qualification required to practice as a public analyst and several sessions were devoted to demystifying the exam process encouraging other delegates to consider taking the qualification.

Lectures were given by public analysts currently in practice and from experts outside the profession, providing a welcomed opportunity for networking.

Niki Georgousi, and Paul Evans watch Emma Downie setting up the microscope

Niki Georgousi, and Paul Evans watch Emma Downie setting up the microscope

Chris Widdrington working on the microscopy practical exercises

Chris Widdrington working on the microscopy practical exercises

The mycology practical session

The mycology practical session

Jane White MChemA demonstrates microscopy technique to Bharathi Reddy

Jane White MChemA demonstrates microscopy technique to Bharathi Reddy

Niki Georgousi makes careful notes of her mycology specimens

Niki Georgousi makes careful notes of her mycology specimens

Jane White MChemA teaching microscopy

Jane White MChemA teaching microscopy

Dr Alex Kersting speaking on the MChemA exam process and RSC topics

Dr Alex Kersting speaking on the MChemA exam process and RSC topics

All delegates gave excellent feedback stating that the course met their expectations to a high degree.

Our thanks go to the speakers and practical session demonstrators for the care and effort they put in to preparing and delivering their material, and to the technical and administrative staff of the University of Reading for their kind assistance in making the course run smoothly.

Tutors on the course are but modestly rewarded for their careful preparation and authoritative delivery yet return year on year, passing on their expertise to the next generation of official control scientists and providing the UK with a bulwark against unsafe and fraudulent food in the supply chain.

The Food Standards Agency was the main sponsor of the event, with Defra and the Analytical Chemistry Trust Fund also providing financial support. The event was organised by the Government Chemist Programme, which is housed within LGC and funded by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.


REACH Restriction for lead adopted by Nick Boley
April 29, 2015, 11:39
Filed under: EU Regulation/Legislation, REACH/CLP, Toys | Tags: , ,

The European Commission has adopted a new restriction under the REACH Regulation which covers lead in consumer items which “during normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, be placed in the mouth by children.”

The Regulation, 2015/628,  restricts the placing on the market of consumer items containing 0.05 % lead, by weight, overall or in those parts accessible to children unless it can be demonstrated that the rate of lead release from such an article or any such accessible part of an article, whether coated or uncoated, does not exceed 0.05 μg/cm2 per hour (equivalent to 0.05 μg/g/h), and, for coated articles, that the coating is sufficient to ensure that this release rate is not exceeded for a period of at least two years of normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use of the article.

Enforcement of this Regulation depends upon the more subjective assessment of whether normal conditions of use would endanger children by the placing of the items in the mouth, as well as the more objective measurement of the lead content, which should not prove a significant issue for any competent laboratory accredited for such tests.

REACH restriction submitted on D4/D5 in personal care products by Nick Boley

The UK authorities have submitted their application to CHA for a restriction under REACH on the use of the cosmetic ingredients D4 (octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane) and D5 (decamethylcyclopentasiloxane) in wash-off personal care products. The proposal asks that an upper limit of 0.1% applies to each of these.

These can be determined analytically by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). A further siloxane in this family, D6 (dodecamethylcyclopentasiloxane), is frequently found in mixtures with D4 and D5, but is not included in the scope of this restriction application.


ALDI joins list of companies signed up to Greenpeace detox commitment by Nick Boley
April 15, 2015, 10:11
Filed under: chemicals, Toxicology | Tags: , , ,

ALDI has become the latest company to sign up to Greenpeace’s Detox Commitment. As a consequence they will ensure that a raft of toxic chemicals will be eliminated from all their textile products, and that full consumer information on this will be available. The company joins other discount retailers such as LiDL in signing up to the Detox Commitment. The chemicals which are covered by this ban are:

  • alkylphenols;
  • phthalates;
  • brominated and chlorinated flame retardants;
  • azo dyes;
  • organotin compounds;
  • perfluorinated chemicals;
  • chlorobenzenes;
  • chlorinated solvents;
  • chlorophenols;
  • short-chain chlorinated paraffins; and
  • heavy metals (cadmium, lead, mercury and chromium (VI))

This will place the onus on ALDI’s suppliers to ensure these chemicals, already shown by Greenpeace to be toxic and present in many widely-traded products, are no longer present, which will involve further analytical testing to confirm their absence. Analytical methods used for such testing would need to be sensitive as the levels of these chemicals can be very low, and they can have toxic effects even at very low concentrations.

5 Legal Highs banned by Nick Boley
April 9, 2015, 08:42
Filed under: Drugs, Forensics, UK Legislation | Tags: ,

The Government have moved to introduce a ban on five further so-called Legal Highs from 10 April 2015. This has been done by means of a Temporary Class Drug Order (TCDO), following recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The ACMD were concerned about the psychoactive nature of the substances.

The 5 drugs which are covered by this ban are:

  • 3,4-Dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP);
  • Ethylphenidate;
  • Isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD);
  • Methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28);
  • Propylphenidate;
  • Any stereoisomeric form of any of these substances and any preparation or other product containing any of these substances.

Forensic laboratories will need robust, validated analytical methods to identify and measure these substances, and will need to extend their scope of ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation to take account of this.

New CEN Publications: March 2015 by Nick Boley
April 2, 2015, 11:10
Filed under: CEN Standards | Tags:

The following list shows standards and technical documents published by the European Standardisation Organisation, CEN, during February and March 2015, some of which are relevant to chemical measurement in support of regulation.

CEN/TS 16692:2015 – Water quality – Determination of tributyltin (TBT) in whole water samples – Method using solid phase extraction (SPE) with SPE disks and gas chromatography with triple quadrupole mass spectrometry.

CEN/TS 1948-5:2015 – Stationary source emissions – Determination of the mass concentration of PCDDs/PCDFs and dioxin-like PCBs – Part 5: Long-term sampling of PCDDs/PCDFs and PCBs

EN16136:2015 – Automotive fuels – Determination of manganese and iron content in unleaded petrol – Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP OES) method

EN/ISO 16995:2015 – Solid biofuels – Determination of the water soluble chloride, sodium and potassium content

EN/ISO 17070:2015 – Leather – Chemical tests – Determination of tetrachlorophenol-, trichlorophenol-, dichlorophenol-, monochlorophenol-isomers and pentachlorophenol content

EN/ISO 3679:2015 –  Determination of flash no-flash and flash point – Rapid equilibrium closed cup method.


Food fear: when allergies can kill by Ellie Gadd
April 1, 2015, 16:00
Filed under: Allergies, EU Regulation/Legislation | Tags: , ,

A fit and healthy 22-year-old girl collapses suddenly after eating a cake and is rushed to hospital. She spends three days in intensive care and five more days in hospital recovering. Poison might have been suspected but there is no investigation for attempted murder. The culprit is caught but walks free from court with just a £7,500 fine.

You may find this shocking, but this was a real UK court case in 2010. The poison: peanuts. The charge: selling falsely labelled food.

In a comment article in the latest issue of Chemistry and Industry magazine (13 March 2015), Michael Walker, Consultant Science Manager for the Government Chemist, and Hazel Gowland, from Allergy Action, discuss this court case as part of a recent review they carried out examining court cases in the UK involving fatalities, personal injury, or criminal non-compliance with food law.

The article outlines the role businesses must play in protecting people with food allergies and the need for tough sanctions if they fail in their duty. They explain the difficulties in detecting the presence of allergenic proteins in foods and why techniques for measuring allergens need to be standardised.

Visit the Chemistry and Industry website to access a copy of the article.