Hydrogen phosphide, also known as phosphine, is a colorless gas that smells like rotten fish and garlic and is also used as a fumigant. Fumigants are gaseous substances used to exterminate pests in buildings, rooms, or containers. They are designed to free the goods that are stored in these spaces from mites, insects, and other unwelcome pests. The most commonly known area of application is in shipping containers. Furthermore, storage facilities on land are also fumigated with phosphine in order to destroy pests. Due to the high toxicity of phosphine, it may only be deployed by trained experts. Even the permission to enter the fumigated spaces may only be granted by trained professionals. Furthermore, suppliers and importers are required to register and declare fumigated containers. In Germany, several preparations that have phosphine, or the salts aluminum phosphide and magnesium phosphide, as their active substances are approved for use on coffee, cacao, fatty seeds, dried fruit, legumes, and for stored grains. For conventional foods, the maximum residue levels for the sum of phosphine and phosphides have been set between 0.01 mg/kg and 0.1 mg/kg in the Regulation (EC) No 396/2005. The use of phosphine and phosphide is not allowed to be used on organic produce and therefore no detectable residue is permitted in organic food products. In this case, the orientation value of <0.01 mg/kg recommended by the German Federal Association for Natural Products (BNN: Bundesverband Naturkost Naturwaren e.V.) is used as a point of reference.
The GBA Group routinely carries out the analysis of phosphine in various food matrices using headspace GC-MS/MS technology. If you have any questions, we are gladly available to assist you.