MULTIMADD - Development of a multi-method for the analysis of additives in foodstuffs

Last updated on 14-12-2022 by Pierre Daubresse
Project duration:
November 16, 2018
January 31, 2021

In short

The use of food additives is strictly regulated under various EU acts. However, EU member states are responsible 

  • to ensure effective controls
  • to monitor food additives’ consumption by their respective population

To fulfil these two requirements, analytical methods are compulsory and have to be able to quantify these substances in various type of foodstuffs for a large number of items available on the market.

Sciensano developed a method that enables the quantification of multiple food additives simultaneously. With this method, controls can be done in a more efficient and quick way.  


Project description

The analysis of food additives (FAs) is very challenging given the large diversity of targeted molecules and the variety of food matrices. Nowadays, different methods are available for FA analysis, but they are often limited to one single functional class or one type of food products. 

For the MULTIMADD project, Sciensano developed a versatile and high-throughput multi-method enabling the quantification of multiple authorised food additives from different technological classes simultaneously in various food matrices. The method also allows the detection of substances illegally used as additives. Moreover, it is applicable for routine analysis. 

To achieve these objectives, Sciensano uses different approaches:

  • Ultra-high performance liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to monitor hundreds of compounds in a few minutes with high selectivity and sensitivity
  • The QuECHERS approach, which offers a large degree of flexibility in extraction mixtures and purification procedures. An alternative extraction method was developed for polar compounds, not amenable to QuEChERS


Using these methods, Sciensano analysed 159 food samples purchased on the Belgian market, demonstrating their use for monitoring purposes.

For all products, the FA levels were below the maximum permitted levels. However, several cases of non-compliance were identified:

  • Presence of authorised additives not listed on the label
    • Five colours (Curcumin E 100, Tartrazine E 102, Sunset Yellow FCF E 110, Ponceau 4R E 124, and Patent Blue V E 131) in five products (three alcoholic drinks, one macaron, and one marzipan decoration)
    • Four sweeteners (Acesulfame K E 950, Aspartame E 951, Cyclamic acid and its Na and Ca salts E 952, and Saccharin and its Na, K and Ca salts E 954) in six samples (five drinks and one rice pudding)
    • Four preservatives and antioxidants (Ethyl and Methyl p-hydroxybenzoate E 214 and E 218, Natamycin E 235, and Extract of rosemary E 392) in twelve samples (four meats, three cheese, two energy drinks, one vanilla dessert cream, one ice cream, and one biscuit with filling).
  • Contradiction between additives detected and reported on the label:
    • Colours in three alcoholic drinks
  • Detection of non-authorised substances:
    • Ethyl gallate in three alcoholic drinks, one dessert, and one prepared meal,
    • Propyl paraben in one prepared meal,
    • Dulcin in one prepared meal, 
    • Rosemarinic acid in one alocoholic drink.

Sciensano's project investigator(s):

Service(s) working on this project

Associated Health Topics

QR code

QR code for this page URL