Measuring Metals in Food
Trace metals found in food and water can be nutritionally beneficial, or highly toxic depending on the type of metal and its concentration. These metals, while naturally present in most foods, may also be added to certain foods as a means of improving diet in regions where dietary intake of certain essential elements may be insufficient. In order to ensure the correct balance of metal content in food products, organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been developing international food standards to enforce maximum concentration levels of various metals.
Accurately quantifying heavy metals is not only vital to food safety and consumer health, but can also be used to deter fraudulent labeling of a food’s origin since the metal content can be used to identify provenance. Analytical testing of these trace metals can be challenging since the measurement of total metals is sometimes not sufficient, and it may be necessary to differentiate between organic and inorganic species.