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Vol. 27 No. 3
May-June 2005

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org/symposia

Trace Elements in Food

by Michael Bickel

The 2nd International IUPAC Symposium on Trace Elements in Food (TEF-2) was held 7–8 October 2004 in Brussels, Belgium. The objectives of the conference were as follows:

  • present state-of-the-art analytical methods for the enforcement of legal limits of trace elements in food
  • disseminate new ideas and findings within the scientific community
  • provide a forum for the exchange of new ideas and experiences among R&D organizations, governments, and industry
  • bring together experts in the field with newcomers

Approximately 100 participants from 25 countries attended the IUPAC-sponsored conference, which was organized by the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurement’s (IRMM) Food Safety and Quality unit. The conference, which featured 26 lectures (12 invited) and 56 posters, was organized into the following four sessions:

  • Session 1: Trace Element Bioavailability, Toxicology, and Nutritional Aspects
  • Session 2: Trace Elements in the Food Chain, Including Effects of Processing and Legislation
  • Session 3: Fortified Food Supplementation—Legislation, Manufacturing, and Labelling Standards
  • Session 4: Advances in Trace Element Analysis in Food (Special attention was paid to trace element speciation, quality control, and quality assurance.)

Following are some summarized highlights from the conference:

  • The conference covered the effects of selenium—both toxic and beneficial—including concentration and speciation analysis; behavior in metabolism, concentrations in soil, feed stuff, and animals; intake through natural and fortified products; role in illness prevention (cancers, liver necrosis); and toxic effects due to overdoses.
  • Other toxic metals, such as lead and cadmium, and essential ones like iron, manganese, and zinc were widely discussed in terms of their occurrence in the food chain and their local and/or regional concentration or speciation.
  • Interest is slowly developing in trace elements (e.g., the platinum group of elements), which have been quite neglected with respect to food matters.
  • New species of elements, such as arsenosugars, arsenolipids, or thioarsenic compounds, were discussed.
  • Isotope specific methods are of steadily growing importance in the food analysis sector. Mass spectrometry-based methods are increasingly used to obtain results in straightforward concentration determination, speciation, determination of geographical origin, and food authentication. A particular method involves using ICP-MS, both high and low resolution, coupled to liquid chromatography devices, most often HPLC. But, many new methods using “conventional” apparati are being developed that aim to reveal more different species at the same time. Faster, less tedious methods for sample preparation and analysis are being sought, and performance parameters are being pushed to further limits.
  • At the same time, quality assurance and quality control of analytical results is increasingly stressed, mainly due to existing or emerging requirements from customers or regulators of the laboratories. Related issues, such as the use of reference materials, use of proficiency testing, metrological matters, and chemometry are increasingly the subject of vigorous debate.

As a whole, the field of trace elements in food is a lively research area that generates interest and involvement from researchers, authorities, industry, and, of course, consumers, who often trigger interest from the other sectors.

TEF-3 will be held in October 2008 in Pau, France. It will be organized by Ryszard Lobinski.

Dr. Michael Bickel <michael.bickel@cec.eu.int> served as the chairman of the Organizing Committee for TEF-2. He currently works at the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements in Belgium.


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