Foods & Foodstuffs – Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are organic compounds containing two or more fused aromatic rings made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. PAHs are formed randomly from incomplete combustion within industrial processes.

Within foods & foodstuffs PAHs may be formed during processed food preparation, such as smoking, drying, roasting, baking, frying or grilling. Vegetables may be contaminated by the deposition of airborne particles or by growth in contaminated soil. Shell fish are known to adsorb and accumulate PAHs from water, which may be contaminated by oil spills.

Of the hundreds of PAHs that potentially form, Benzo(a)Pyrene is the PAH of most interest because of its toxicity, and is therefore the marker compound of this group of contaminants.


The aim of EU legislation on PAHs in foods is to ensure that processed foods, fresh produce and fish products enter into the food chain, not representing any danger to human and environmental health

Initially, European Commission Directive (EC) No 1881/2006 set maximum levels for Benzo(a)Pyrene only.
This directive has now been replaced by Commission Regulation 835/2011 which now increases the number of PAHs monitored to four.
This has now been transposed into regional law within the EU.


The analysis is carried out by GC/MS methodology’s to ensure correct quantification is achieved.

Regulated PAH analysis – Benzo(a)Pyrene, Benzo(a)Anthracene, Benzo(b)Fluoranthene, Chrysene and Total (4)

A flexible scope of accreditation can be offered – if additional PAHs are required, accredited analysis can be achieved.

For more information on the PAH services offered by SAL, please contact your local laboratory or contact us online.

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