EURL / Heavy metals

Feed safety platform

European Union Reference Laboratory for heavy metals in feed and food

Type of the activity: European Union Reference Laboratory



The European Union Reference Laboratory for heavy metals in feed and food was created to implement Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with the feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules. Regulation (EC) No 776/2006 nominates the Joint Research Centre as the European Union reference laboratory (EURL) for heavy metals in feed and food. It is established at the JRC Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) and works together with appointed national reference laboratories (NRLs) of the EU Member States.

Heavy metals are present in all foodstuffs. Their amount in food and feed depends on the natural content and on the conditions under which food and feed are produced and processed. Some heavy metals have nutritional functions and are essential to the health. But others such as lead, cadmium and mercury have no nutritional relevance and can cause serious illnesses.

To reduce the risk to human health associated with a high heavy metal content in food and feed, maximum allowed limits in several commodities have been laid down in the European legislation. The EURL acts in this frame of legislation dealing with controls of heavy metal content in food and feed as a result of environmental or industrial contamination.

Project description

Objectives: to facilitate the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 18812006 and Directive 2001/22/EC establishing the maximum levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium in different foods.

Description of the tasks

One of the core tasks of the EURL is to organise interlaboratory comparisons where the appointed national reference laboratories can participate. Furthermore it supports and gives advice to the European authorities and the NRLs on scientific matters. Development and validation of standardised analytical methods can also be carried out if the national reference laboratories ask for it, as well as training on the relevant European legislation.

The three types of matrices covered by the EURL are: wild caught fish, food of plant origin and animal feed.


Project team

Operating manager

Maria Beatriz De La Calle
European Union Reference Laboratory for Heavy Metals in Feed and Food
European Commission – Joint Research Centre
Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements
Retieseweg 111
B-2440 Geel, Belgium
Tel.: +32 (0)14 571 252
Email :

Project web site