It is important to test food that is sold for human and animal consumption, especially if these animals are going to become human food. Using scientific analysis it is possible to know the physical and chemical structure of food, as well as to know the quality and quantity of its nutrients.
As living organisms humans need some minerals like Iron to live and develop properly. This is why some processed food companies such as the cereal companies add some essential minerals to the food that they produce. However, an excess of the minerals that we need in our body, or at the body of any living organism, can be harmful. There are also the minerals that we don’t need, such as mercury, that even small amounts of them in our body can be really harmful. This is why some laboratories specialize in testing heavy metals in food.
The FDA, in order to perform its function and to keep the american people as healthy as possible, they test the raw and processed food, as well as food supplements sold in the United States. The measurements are mainly to know the concentration of heavy metals and other harmful elements that in big concentrations can be harmful for humans. In order to do this they hire specialized laboratories to do food tests all around the country and its entrance points (ports, airports and borders).
In february the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced that commercial baby foods contained dangerous levels of arsenic. This is one of the results made by the Food and Drug Administration through the specialized laboratories that work testing heavy metals in food.
Results on tests made to find any trace of heavy metals are as reliable as the quality and equipment used to analyse samples. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is a proposal of a laboratory accreditation program that, once established, will require that food testing in certain circumstances be conducted by laboratories that voluntarily become accredited under this program.
There are many tests done to find heavy metals in food, however a lab result that says that there are no heavy metals in a food ingredient or are non-detectable is ideal for the client. This same food ingredient tested with a different or more sensitive analytical method, or more precise procedure, the non-detectable result in the first test may find a potential problem. It can create difficult situations when food advances in the process and buyers, FDA, or the public runs tests using another lab and finds the substances in a company’s product that previously were not found.
There are many ways to do heavy metals testing in food, a reliable test lab has the required accreditations that certifies that it is using correct analysis methods and that its equipment is calibrated at the time it is testing your samples. This is to reduce at minimum the possibility of a false positive or a false negative there exists proficiency tests that run several tests in different laboratories and compare results. This way it is possible to detect differences between results and acknowledge the laboratories that produce consistent and accurate results.