Contaminants in food and feed: inexpensive detection for control of exposure

Type of the activity: research project
Financing: 7th European Commission Framework Programme
Duration of the project: 05/2008-04/2012


RASFF, the rapid alert system on food and feed shows that controls on chemical contaminants in food and feed are essential for food safety in Europe . Chemical contaminants are also a major consumer concern in terms of dietary risks. Moreover the General Food Law regulation ( Regulation (EC)178/2002) , makes industries responsible for the safety of their products. Current analytical methods are often expensive and can detect only one substance at a time. There is thus an urgent need to develop screening methods which are straightforward, inexpensive and rapid and that can detect several contaminants at the same time.

In this context, a four-year European collaborative project (CP) funded by the 7 th Framework Programme has been launched in May 2008. This project CONffIDENCE (proposal-211326) is entitled ”Contaminants in Food and Feed: Inexpensive Detection for Control of Exposure”.

Project description


CONffIDENCE is an ambitious project, which aims to further expand Europe ‘s excellent position in (i) food safety issues and (ii) chemical detection technology, as well as to ensure the competitiveness of the involved European industries. The project has five major objectives:

Assurance of quality and safety in the European food supply from farm to fork by the development of new simplified detection methods for chemical contaminants with effective features: fast, easy-to-use, robust, high-throughput, broad-spectrum (multiplex) and cost-efficient
Development of new detection tools for key- and emerging risks as recognised by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), e.g. perfluorinated compounds and naturally occurring toxins from algae, plants and fungi;
Improvement of consumer exposure assessments. The developed fast and cost-efficient methods will allow a higher sampling and analysis density in monitoring. Thus, a better understanding of contaminant levels in food and feed will be achieved;
Contribution to the validation of risk-benefit and predictive hazard behaviour models in accordance with the strategic agenda of the European Technology Platform (ETP) Food for Life;
Extensive dissemination and training of new detection methods to all relevant stakeholders, including industrial and governmental end-users and students, to advance technology exploitation.

To achieve these strategic objectives, 9 RTD work packages (WPs), grouped into four clusters have been defined.

– Cluster 1 – Organic pollutants

– Cluster 2 – Veterinary pharmaceuticals

– Cluster 3 – Heavy metals

– Cluster 4 – Biotoxins

Within each work package method development activities are combined with impact demonstrators addressing policy needs. In addition, cross-cutting discussion groups on harmonization in QA/QC, in-house validation and small-scale interlaboratory comparison studies, and on exchange of sample preparation methods of marine- and cereal-based food and feed, ensure coherence among the various work packages

Expected results

The project aims to provide long-term solutions to the monitoring of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals (coccidiostats, antibiotics), heavy metals and biotoxins (alkaloids, plant contaminant, marine toxins, mycotoxins) in high-risk products like fish and fish feed, cereal-based food/feed and vegetables. Several new methods will be developed, based on novel multiplex technologies such as dipsticks, flow cytometry with functionalised beads, surface plasmon resonance optical (SPR) and electrochemical biosensors, cytosensors or near infrared imaging. After validation, the new methods will be applied in demonstration activities which will help to assess contaminants exposure and validate the risk models. Dissemination to scientists and to relevant stakeholders, including the food and feed industry, regulatory control (DG-SANCO, EFSA) and normalisation bodies (CEN), the Community reference laboratories (CRLs), the routine laboratories and the consumers will be assured by a website ( ), an electronic Newsletter, press articles, public workshops, open days, lectures at international conferences, publications and training modules.

Main partners

The CONffIDENCE project is coordinated by RIKILT. The consortium consists of 17 partners from 10 countries, representing 9 research institutes, 5 universities, 2 large food and feed industries and 1 SMEs.

Project team

Coordination :

Dr Jacob de Jong

RIKILT – Institute of Food Safety
Bornsesteeg 45
NL 6700 PD Wageningen
Tel : +31 317 480 376


Web site :