Metals in Meat and Eggs Survey 2009–10

​In 2009–10 the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, through the National Residue Survey, surveyed a broad range of 67 routinely and non-routinely monitored chemical elements (metals) in six of its participating animal industries.

The survey was undertaken to update the findings from a similar survey undertaken by us in 1992, Metals in Meat Survey, and to reaffirm the reputation and integrity of Australian animal products.

Sample collection

Muscle, kidney and liver samples were collected from 410 cattle, 152 sheep, 61 pigs and 60 horses; 75 muscle and liver samples were collected from poultry; and 150 egg samples were collected from conventional, barn laid and free range commercial egg producers. In total, 2349 samples were collected under standard NRS protocols. The number of samples collected per Australian state was based on the production in the previous 12 months (from slaughter, or egg laying records) and further subdivided into age groups.

Laboratory and statistical analysis

Laboratory analyses were undertaken by an Australian laboratory accredited by NATA to the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 (1999). In summary, samples were digested with nitric acid followed by analyses performed by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS) and/or Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES).

Statistical analysis and preparation of concentration and percentage distribution tables were prepared using statistical software (R Development Core Team, 2012). For the purpose of statistical analysis, all non-detected values were assigned a value of zero. Results for each metal were grouped into age and tissue categories for each animal product with distributions expressed as a percentage of the total number of values for each table. Concentration tables were prepared reporting median and 90th percentile values for each metal.


Of the 67 metals, 30 were not detected or rarely detected. Only the 37 elements more consistently detected were comprehensively analysed and reported in this survey. In general, metals were present at lowest concentrations in muscle tissue and at highest concentrations in either the liver or kidney. Metal concentrations in eggs were generally lower, or similar to concentrations in muscle of animal species.

Results from this survey confirm the high level of compliance of Australian meat and eggs with Australian Standards. In many cases, metals included in this survey were either not detected, or only occasionally detected at low levels. Some minerals of public health importance were found in all products. The survey provides a national benchmark of the levels of a range of metals in Australian meat and eggs.

Download survey results



File size

Summary of metals included in this survey PDF


440 KB

Summary of metals included in this survey DOCX


88 KB

Concentration tables PDF


1.4 MB

Concentration tables DOCX


280 KB

Percentage distribution tables PDF


1.5 MB

Percentage distribution tables DOCX


252 KB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
Thanks for your feedback.
Thanks! Your feedback has been submitted.

We aren't able to respond to your individual comments or questions.
To contact us directly phone us or submit an online inquiry

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Please verify that you are not a robot.