Pesticide & Chemical Analysis


The presence of pesticides that could remain in or on the UK’s food & drink supply is monitored continuously by testing  various foodstuffs on sale to the general public. This is extremely exacting work requiring the ability to detect 100s of different chemicals at concentrations of parts per billion (i.e. 1 part in 1000,000,000 parts).  UK and EU surveillance programmes include both imported and home-produced food and covers staples such as bread, milk, babyfood, meat and fruit & vegetables.  SASA has experience across the range of commodities, but currently focuses on the fruit and vegetable sector.


The Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) provides a channel for monitoring the impact of legitimate pesticide and biocide use on wildlife, domestic animals, livestock and honeybees. 

Exposure to pesticides and biocides can occur following:

  • Approved Use (according to the specified instruction);
  • Misuse (careless, accidental or wilful failure to adhere to the correct practice);
  • Abuse (the deliberate and illegal attempt to poison animals);
  • Veterinary Use (where subsequent investigations reveal that the pesticide detected was formulated as a veterinary medicine); or
  • Unspecified Use (where the cause could not be assigned to one of the above categories).


SASA Pesticides & Wildlife Branch provides analytical chemistry support  to the investigation of suspected wildlife crimes and enforcement of various laws.  The support provided involves:

  1. The detection, identification and quantitation of a wide range of chemicals used as poisons and that may remain in or on suspected victims or baits,
  2. Identification of suspicious substances e.g. unknown chemicals, material collected from a crime scene, vehicle or a suspect’s possessions
  3. The detection, identification and quantitation of chemical residues that remain in or on suspected poisoning paraphernalia e.g. knives, syringes or containers.

Pesticide Residues in Food

One of the principal functions of the Pesticides Branch at SASA is participation in annual UK and EU surveillance programme aimed at the monitoring of multiple pesticide residues in food & drink. A rolling programme, covering the main food groups of fruit and vegetables, cereals and cereal products and products of animal and fish origin, is implemented via specific commodity surveys on samples collected within calendar years. The work is carried out under the auspices of the Defra Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF), and is commissioned by the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD).

Provision of this service is facilitated by application of a variety of analytical methods that necessitate the use of state-of-the-art instrumentation and a comprehensive quality control system. An integrated analytical approach is required in order to detect, identify, quantify and confirm the presence (or absence) of a wide range of pesticide residues in a variety of matrices, often at sub part per billion levels. 

Find out more on the analytical techniques currently available.

Research Activities

A primary objective is to provide a high quality trace analytical facility at SASA on behalf of the Scottish Government. Consequently, it is an ongoing requirement to develop and adapt analytical methodologies and maintain a critical awareness of technical developments for the following reasons:

  • the continuous introduction of new agricultural pesticides
  • an increased variety and complexity of pesticide/foodstuff combinations
  • greater consumption of imported foods, particularly from countries with different regulations for the application and registration of pesticides
  • reduction in Maximum Residue Levels (MRL)
  • continued improvement in the effectiveness and efficiency of analytical procedures
  • developments in analytical instrumentation and procedures.

See also the list of Pesticide & Chemical Analysis papers and poster presentations.

Analytical Techniques Currently Available

The following analytical techniques are currently available at SASA:

  • Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC
  • Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS)
  • Gas Chromatography tandem Mass Spectrometry (GCMSMS)
  • Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography tandem Mass Spectrometry (UPLC MSMS)
  • Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography Photodiode Array Detection (UPLC PDA)
  • Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography - QTRAP (UHPLC/MS/MS).

Analytical methods and procedures are accredited to the ISO 17025 standard for testing laboratories by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and are additionally supported by rigorous in-house quality control practices.  View the UKAS testing laboratories and schedules.

Our accreditation is limited to those activities described on our UKAS schedule of accreditation, see our [QA page].