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Getting to the bottom of Cetrimonium chloride


Cetrimonium chloride is a white sediment that is poorly soluble in water. It is a quaternary ammonium compound with a C16-chain. In the cosmetics industry, due to its chemical structure, cetrimonium chloride is mainly used in hair care products and shampoos, while it is used in textiles as an antistatic and plasticizer. In view of its antiseptic effect, disinfectants can also contain cetrimonium chloride. [1]
According to EU law, quaternary ammonium compounds are not permitted as active substances in food. Therefore a maximum residue level of 0.01 mg / kg (“zero tolerance”) applies. [2] Plant protection products that contain cetrimonium chloride are also banned in the EU.

Research status at GALAB

Investigations have shown that especially goods from the South American region (e.g. Brazil and Colombia) are affected by positive findings and even exceeding maximum quantities for cetrimonium chloride. Among other things, the active ingredient could be detected in the analysis of table grapes and avocados.
In addition to direct use as biocide, there are a few other sources of input that could be responsible for contamination:

  1. Since cetrimonium chloride is used in the cosmetics industry, it cannot be ruled out that the water could be contaminated with cetrimonium chloride if it is not processed sufficiently. An entry into the cultivation of fruit and vegetables would theoretically be conceivable.
  2. When used as a disinfectant, the cetrimonium chloride could migrate to the goods through contaminated surfaces or packaging materials.
  3. Metabolism from other quaternary ammonium compounds (e.g. BAC 16) is unlikely, but has not yet been completely ruled out.

Current research at GALAB

GALAB is currently researching the causes of the sometimes high findings on cetrimonium chloride in grapes and avocados in order to be able to inform customers about the origin of the active ingredient. By including the active ingredient in the pesticide multi-method GALAB Pesticides 500Plus®, GALAB is able to determine the content in each sample and thus to be able to react quickly to new facts.
In an attempt to wash the samples before analysis, GALAB initially found out that the content can be reduced by washing the goods, but due to the poor water solubility high results still can be measured.
Further attempts to trace the speading of cetrimonium chloride in the products (skin or pulp) are already underway.
We will be happy to inform you about further developments on the subject of “cetrimonium chloride in fruits and vegetables”.

Further information

[1] ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) 
[2] EU (European Commission)