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ERM-AE671: A new Certified Reference Material to make methylmercury measurements in food more reliable


European regulation 466/2001/EC sets limits for the total mercury content in foodstuffs. However, like some other elements, mercury can be present in different forms ('species'), which can have different toxicity. For mercury in fish, methylmercury is especially important, as its acute toxicity is a factor 1000 higher than the one of elemental mercury and also has a high chronic toxicity. This was tragically demonstrated by the massive poisoning of humans by methylmercury in the Minamata bay, Japan between the 1950ies and 1970ies. Therefore, measuring the total mercury content alone is not sufficient to ensure that a product poses no risk. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reacted to this fact by setting provisional limits for the tolerable consumption of methylmercury to complement the legal limits on total mercury.

Determination of metal species is significantly more challenging than determination of the total element content, as one must not only ensure absence of contamination and absence of loss, but one must also ensure that the methylmercury is not converted into elemental mercury and vice versa. Use of an isotopically labelled internal standard can correct for many of the problems in the determination of element species.

The new CRM:
To respond to this need, the JRC's Directorate for Health, Consumers and Reference Materials developed the Certified Reference Material ERM-AE671 consisting of methylmercury which virtually entirely contains 202Hg in contrast to natural mercury, which is a mixture of seven different isotopes. The homogeneity and stability of the material was demonstrated and the certified values were calculated from the purity and precision-weighing of the materials. These data were confirmed by independent measurements.

This new material will support controlling the methylmercury content in foodstuff and thus contribute to food safety in Europe. More information, the certificate and the certification report are available in the CRM specific page.

Source: European Commission, JRC, Directorate F - Health, Consumers and Reference Materials

Related information:

ERM-AE671: Certification Report
ERM-AE671: Webshop and Certificate

 Related EVISA Resources:

 Brief summary: Speciation Analysis - Striving for Quality
 Brief summary: Certified Reference Materials for Speciation Analysis
Brief summary: Certified reference materials for mercury in marine animal tissues
Brief summary: Chemical speciation analysis for nutrition and food science
Brief summary: Standard methods for mercury speciation analysis
Brief summary: ICP-MS: A versatile detection system for speciation analysis
Link database: Toxicity of Organic mercury compounds
Link database: Human exposure to methylmercury via the diet
Material Database: CRMs for mercury speciation analysis
Material Database: ERM-AE671 CH3(202Hg)Cl in 2 % Ethanol/Water
Link page: All about CRMs
Link page: All about food science
Link page: All about quality of measurements
Company Database: IRMM and its products

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August 2, 2005: New CRM for Selenomethionine in yeast developed by NRC Canada is now on the market
May 6, 2004: Reference materials producers launch new European initiative 

last time modified: January 5, 2017

Reg 466/2001/EC
Reg 466/2001 has been repealed by Reg 1881/2006.
2017--0-1-  Stig Valdersnes

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