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Arsenic Speciation in Fruit and Vegetables Grown in the UK

Institutions
University of Aberdeen
Start date
2010
End date
2012
Objective

The project aimed to:

  • Establish the levels of total and inorganic arsenic in UK grown fruits and vegetables
  • Investigate the levels of cadmium, lead, copper and zinc in UK grown fruits and vegetables
  • Measure the gradation or distribution of all these metals in selected fruits and vegetables, from 'skin to core' using laser ablation mass spectrometry

Samples of locally grown fruit and vegetable produce were sampled in South West England and analysed to determine the levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper and zinc.

In two, geologically stable, arsenic enriched regions of South West England, 630 basket products from local farm shops, greengrocers, pick your own, supermarkets and farmers markets and 174 samples of field produce and associated soil samples were collected and analysed to determine the levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper and zinc. To ensure that seasonality of crop production and climate was taken into account, the samples were collected and analysed from late autumn 2010 through to late summer 2011. Samples included fruits and vegetables that are normally washed and peeled in the home to enable a comparison of the levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper and zinc in unpeeled and peeled produce; levels in the skins and flesh of baked potatoes were determined in 20 samples. For reference purposes, 190 samples of basket produce were sampled from a region of North East Scotland known to contain comparatively low levels of arsenic in the soil, and analysed for total arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper, and zinc. All produce and soil analyses were carried out using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). A subset of 247 samples of basket and field produce were also analysed for inorganic arsenic using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) linked to a HPLC-ICP-MS. To establish the gradation or distribution of arsenic, cadmium and lead from the 'skin to core' in peelable produce e.g. apple, beetroot, carrot, parsnip and potato, 25 samples were analysed using laser ablation (LA) ICP-MS. The results from this research study have been sent to the European Food Safety Authority for collation with data from other member states.

More information

Background: During growth, fruit and vegetables take up metal contaminants from the surrounding soil area. The metal contaminants may include; arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper and zinc. Arsenic, cadmium and lead have no known beneficial health effects, while copper and zinc can act as nutrients and are essential for health. However, all may be harmful if excessive amounts are consumed.

The European Food Safety Authority has previously concluded that dietary exposure to arsenic, cadmium and lead should be reduced. Additionally, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives agree that it is not possible to set a tolerable lead intake and therefore minimisation of exposure to lead from all sources is desirable. The Agency considers that exposure to arsenic, cadmium and lead should be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project source
View this project
Project number
FS241003
Categories
Heavy Metals
Parasites
Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Commodities
Produce