Skip to main content
English Cymraeg

Chemical hazards in food and feed

 What is the impact of chemical hazards (including nanomaterials and microplastics) in food and feed and how can we reduce it?   

Chemicals are present in foods and feeds. Some are added intentionally, for example food additives, whilst others are present due to contamination, either from the environment, processes or malicious intent.

Undertaking research on chemicals which may be present in food and feed allows FSA risk assessors to evaluate the potential risk to health that could arise from exposure to these chemicals.

The aim of this Area of Research Interest (ARI) is to support and improve the FSA’s evidence base to keep the consumer safe and ensure that food is what it says it is. Research under this ARI, including surveys and other research projects, will provide FSA scientists and policymakers with current and reliable information on chemicals in food and feed. 

Surveys help us to determine the levels of chemicals of interest present in food and feed which are available on the UK market. This allows more reliable exposure evaluation in risk assessments to be undertaken and, if necessary, risk management to be put in place to protect the consumer. Surveys can also identify any patterns in the data and whether there are any chemicals, food or situations that may need closer scrutiny.

Research to improve our understanding of chemicals and how they interact with our bodies to allows us to make more informed decisions regarding the safety of food and feed. Other projects may be undertaken which would provide FSA scientists, and our independent expert advisors, with a better understanding of methodologies used for assessment of chemical safety and how these may be used in future regulation of chemicals in food. 

FSA projects do not undertake safety testing of regulated products, the responsibility of which lies with the manufacturer.


Research projects related to the programme

Product Survey of Cat Food for Mycotoxins

The Food Standards Agency commissioned Fera Science Limited to carry out a survey to obtain occurrence data for a range of mycotoxins in 20 dry and 20 wet cat food samples at two sampling time points.

Occurrence of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids in Food

Samples of tea, herbal infusions, honey and plant-based supplements were analysed for pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Overall, the levels were low and similar to other published reports. Exposure to PAs should be minimised as they can be harmful to human health.

Bio-Based Materials for Use in Food Contact Applications

This report contains a review of evidence relating to potential risks and other unintended consequences of replacing oil-based plastic food packaging and other food contact materials with bio-based food contact materials (BBFCMs). It covers data from a range of sources including scientific literature and grey literature (e.g. government, not-for-profit organisation, academic and industry reports).

Contaminants in duck and other speciality eggs

The purpose of this study was to investigate the occurrence of a range of regulated and emerging organic environmental contaminants in duck and other non-hen eggs that are available for sale in the UK

Total diet study: metals and other elements

The Total Diet Study (TDS) represents the average UK diet and is used to estimate the dietary exposure of the general UK population to a range of chemicals in food and make assessments on the safety and/or nutritional quality of food.

Levels of N-nitroso compounds (NOC) in UK consumed foods

The study investigated a range of foods to identify and quantify the level of N-nitroso compounds (NOC) formed during the manufacturing process. Measurement of apparent total nitroso compounds (ATNC) was used to screen for the presence of NOC and methodology developed to try and identify and quantity the NOC present. The levels of NOC found were low and unlikely to be a risk to health.

Analyses of lead levels in tea

Lead is a naturally occurring chemical contaminant that is present in soil, water and the atmosphere, including as the result of human activities in the past. Due to its presence in the environment, lead is likely to occur at low levels in a wide range of foods including tea. Plants including tea plants can uptake lead via their roots and by deposition on foliage. This is not a new risk and people are exposed to lead in their diet from many sources. It is not possible to avoid exposure to lead from food.

Monitoring of tropane alkaloids in food

A total of 338 UK samples of cereal based products, vegetables, oilseeds and teas, and 17 single grain flours sampled directly at mills were analysed for tropane alkaloids (TAs). TAs were detected at low levels in 18% of the samples.

Infant Metals Survey

A survey of metals and other elements in commercial infant foods, infant formula and non-infant specific foods