Analytical methods

Confirmatory methods

Specific requirements for GC/MS methods to be complied with for confirmatory purposes are laid down in Annex I-IV of Commission Regulation (EU) No 589/2014 for certain foodstuffs and in Annex I of Commission Regulation (EC) No 152/2009 of 27 January 2009 for feed.

Confirmatory methods allow the unequivocal identification and quantification of PCDD/Fs and dioxin-like PCBs present in a sample and provide full information on congener basis. Therefore, these methods allow the control of maximum and action levels, including the confirmation of results obtained by screening methods. Furthermore, results may be used for other purposes such as determination of low background levels in food monitoring, following of time trends, exposure assessment of the population and building of database for possible re-evaluation of action and maximum levels. They are also important for establishing congener patterns in order to identify the source of a possible contamination. Such methods utilise GC-HRMS. For confirming compliance or non-compliance with the maximum level, also GC-MS/MS can be used.

Screening methods

Specific requirements for bioanalytical and GC/MS methods to be complied with for screening methods are laid down in Annex I-IV of Commission Regulation (EU) No 589/2014 for certain foodstuffs and in Annex I of Commission Regulation (EC) No 152/2009 of 27 January 2009 for feed.

The goal of screening methods is to select those samples with levels of PCDD/Fs and dioxin-like PCBs that exceed the maximum levels or the action levels. Screening methods should allow cost-effective high samplethroughput, thus increasing the chance to discover new incidents with high exposure and health risks of consumers. Their application should aim at avoiding false-compliant results. They may comprise bioanalytical and GC/MS methods.

Screening methods compare the analytical result with a cut-off value, providing a yes/no-decision over possible exceedance of the maximum or action level. The concentration of PCDD/Fs and the sum of PCDD/Fs and dioxin-like PCBs in samples suspected to be non-compliant with the maximum level must be determined/confirmed by a confirmatory method.

In addition, screening methods may give an indication of the levels of PCDD/Fs and dioxin-like PCBs present in the sample. In case of application of bioanalytical screening methods the result is expressed as Bioanalytical Equivalents (BEQ), whereas in case of application of physico-chemical GC-MS methods it is expressed as Toxic Equivalents (TEQ). The numerically indicated results of screening methods are suitable for demonstrating compliance or suspected non-compliance or exceedance of action levels and give an indication of the range of levels in case of follow-up by confirmatory methods. They are not suitable for purposes such as evaluation of background levels, estimation of intake, following of time trends in levels or re-evaluation of action and maximum levels.

Further information on bioanalytical screening methods