Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon NRL

Fera is the UK National Reference Laboratory for PAHs in food and has considerable expertise in the analysis of PAHs.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon NRL

"Alwyn is a senior scientist working on environmental contaminants at Fera. He oversees the development of new methodologies, and carries out research and development studies for a wide range of UK and overseas government and commercial clients."


Alywyn Fernandes
SENIOR SCIENTIST, Fera
Alwyn Fernandes Headshot

Fera is UK NRL for PAHs

Fera is the UK National Reference Laboratory for PAHs in food and has considerable expertise in the analysis of PAHs. There will now be legally-binding restrictions on maximum limits for carcinogenic PAHs in food supplements, along with cocoa fibre, banana chips, dried herbs and dried spices. High levels of PAHs have been found in certain food supplements which contain or are derived from botanical ingredients, often associated with poor drying practices. The European Commission has published the Regulation (EU) No. 2015/1933 to update the previous EU Regulation No. 1881/2006, which comes into effect from 1 April 2016. This update will have a significant impact across the entire supply chain. The Contaminants in Food (England) Regulations 2013 make enforcement measures provision for European Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006, setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) refers to a group of several hundred chemically-related environmentally persistent organic compounds of various structures and varied toxicity. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) constitute a large class of organic compounds containing two or more fused aromatic rings made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) is commonly used as an indicator species for PAH contamination and most of the available data refer to this compound. 

PAHs by nature are; toxic by inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption, carcinogen, mutagen and reproductive toxin. Long-term inhalation can cause a decrease in lung function, chest pain and irritation and long-term skin contact can cause dermatitis and warts. BaP is thought to probably cause lung and skin cancer in humans.

PAHs are a large class of substances. 

The PAHs subject to restriction include: Benzo[a]pyrene , Benzo[k]fluoranthene, Anthracene, Acenaphthylene, Pyrene,  Chrysene, Benzo[ghi]perylene, Dibenz[a,h]anthracene, Benzo[e]pyrene,  Benzo[a]anthracene, Indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene, Acenaphthene,  Benzo[j]fluoranthene, Phenanthrene, Benzo[b]fluoranthene, Fluorene, Fluoranthene,  Naphthalene 


EU Commission


Testimonial Background

PAHs can be found in most foods, and are usually formed during food preparation such as smoking, drying, roasting, baking, frying or grilling. Vegetables and some marine foods such as mussels and lobster can absorbs PAHs in many different methods, such as through growth in contaminated soil, or absorption within water after an oil spill for example.

Of the many hundreds of PAHs, the most studied is benzo[a]pyrene, which is often used as a marker for PAHs in ambient air and food. New maximum levels for the sum of four substances (PAH4) (benzo(a)pyrene, benz(a)anthracene, benzo(b)fluoranthene and chrysene) were introduced whilst maintaining a separate maximum level for benzo(a)pyrene. 

This system ensures that PAH levels in food are kept at levels that do not cause health concerns and that the amount of PAH can also be controlled in those samples in which benzo(a)pyrene is not detectable, but where other PAHs are present.