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Content archived on 2024-04-19

Improvements and validation of analytical methodologies for EC customs analysis


It is important for customs administrations that there are available analytical methods capable of providing data which will unequivocally allow the correct classification of goods entering or leaving Member States. A number of priority commodities have been identified. Those under study as part of this project are corn gluten, starch/glucose, durum pasta, soya/casein in meat products and butterfat. A knowledge of the precision of data derived from analytical methods used by customs laboratories is also valuable in demonstrating confidence in the results and this is also being addressed. The project is thus divided into 6 studies.

The corn gluten study is intended to develop analytical techniques based on microscopy, in order to distinguish the various constituents of corn gluten and to devise a semi-quantitative measure of these constituents. The starch/glucose study will assess the various analytical methods currently used and will identify those giving the most reliable results. Interlaboratory comparisons will be carried out on specially prepared mixtures of known composition, stability and homogeneity, and if this is satisfactory it will lead to Certified Reference Materials. The durum pasta study will collate existing analytical information on the adulteration of durum pasta with common wheat, and will maintain liaison between the various interested groups. Soya and casein are used to adulterate meat products and analytical methods for their detection will be developed. Various markers to measure the butterfat content of products containing mixed fats will be assessed with a view to recommending a satisfactory method for determining butterfat content. Analytical methods relevant to customs work published in the open literature, as norms or developed in-house will be collated, particularly with respect to precision.
Despite a substantial amount of work by leading miscroscopists familiar with the commodity, it has not been possible to recommend a standard method. Several methods for the determination of starch/glucose have been found, within specified constraints, to be satisfactory. A reference material has been prepared and its stability and homogeneity measured. It has been analysed by the participating laboratories and, with some qualification, satisfactory results have been obtained. A candidate Certified Reference Material has been prepared and is currently undergoing stability and homogeneity trials. Collation of information on analytical methods for detecting durum pasta adulteration and contact with organisations concerned with this problem is in progress. The determination of casein in meat products has not been found sufficiently reliable for customs purposes. Better results have been obtained for soya, but more work needs to be done before this can be regarded as completely acceptable. The report on markers for butterfat content is complete and copies are available from DGXXI. Following trials to select the most appropriate software package, a computerised database which contains precision data on analytical methods for customs laboratories is in the course of preparation.


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