Organisation and management RIKILT


Wageningen Food Safety Research has approximately 450 employees. Our research staff is assigned to 3 business units. Each business unit consist of research teams.

Organogram WFSR_2023.jpg

Our research teams:

Teams Business Unit Authenticity & Veterinary Drugs

Team Authenticity & Nutrients

In this team (16 employees) we focus on:

  • Analysing the composition of food, animal feed and fertilisers. Consider, for example, added nitrogen substitutes in dairy products, extra moisture in meat and certain fats in animal feed.
  • Detecting fraud using so-called analytical fingerprints. We can determine this by combining advanced analysis techniques with statistics. For example, we can see whether an egg is really organic, whether farmer's cheese is really made from raw milk and what the origin of a batch of cocoa beans is.

We are also a National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for Milk and Milk Products and Water Content in Poultry Meat, which means, among other things, that we conduct comparative research to ensure the quality of analyses at carrying out laboratories. We also do this for nitrogen and phosphorus in animal manure, although there is no official NRL for this.

In addition to the analytical work, we also carry out desk work on traceability in production chains and where that chain is vulnerable to fraud. After all, traceability information is essential to guarantee the safety and quality of foodstuffs.

Type of work

The analysis of product compositions is often done using classical wet chemical analyses, HPLC-UV, GC-FID. We combine the production of analytical fingerprints (HPLC, GC, MS and spectroscopic techniques) with multivariate statistics to make statements about the authenticity of products. We have variants of the spectroscopic techniques in the lab as well as variants that can be used on location.

Team Bioassays & Biosensors

In this team we work on all types of substances, from contaminants such as dioxins, PCBs, pesticides, plant toxins (including tropane alkaloids (TAs), pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) and lectins), all shellfish, fish and blue-green algae toxins and the heavy metals to animal treatment agents such as antibiotics, benzimidazoles, benzodiazepines, growth promoters (both steroids and growth hormones) and NSAIDs.

To detect these substances, we use cell and enzyme assays (bioassays) and (multiplex) rapid tests that are usually based on specific antibodies (biosensors). Such simple rapid tests are comparable to the home self-tests for determining corona and pregnancy. These bioassays and biosensors are largely developed in-house or in collaboration.

Type of work

Both the development and application of bioassays and biosensors are laboratory activities. These include cell culture, in-house production and characterisation of antibodies, setting up enzyme assays, making self-tests with or without a cassette, sample extractions, sample purification using columns, evaporating purified sample extracts for (screening) analysis with a bioassay or a biosensor. Reporting of the analysis results (sample results).

Animal Drugs Teams

In these teams (50 employees in total) we conduct research into animal treatment products and analyse (banned) animal treatment products and residues in food, animal feed and animal-related samples. We also look at the distribution and effects of animal treatment products in water, soil and manure, among other things. We also investigate the effect of natural animal feed additives, such as herbs, on animal health.

The Animal Drugs teams perform several tasks:

  • Carrying out sample analyses and forensic research for the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) in the field of (residues of) animal treatment products.
  • Developing broad screening methods, both substance group-specific and based on the prohibited or undesirable effect (bioassays)
  • Advising (inter)national governments as a reference laboratory for animal treatment products
  • Advising the government in the event of incidents

Type of work

The basis of the work in our teams lies in analytical chemistry. We mainly do this using HR-MS and LC-MS. We also improve and develop new analysis methods and models. We also conduct literature searches to improve reporting and analysis results.

Team Growth promoters

In this team (25 employees) we look at residues of growth promoters in food, feed and environmental samples. We do this with analytical techniques such as Mass Spectrometry preceded by liquid or gas chromatography. We also work on the analysis of drugs in the environment, supplements and nutrition.

We also fulfill the role as European Union Reference Laboratory for growth promoters. In this role we coordinate research, organize distribution tests, and contribute ideas about legislation and regulations in the field of growth promoters.

A relatively new topic for us is the analysis of proteins and peptides with LC-MS/MS. We do this for growth hormones but also for allergens, for example.

Team Sample registration, pre processing, purchase and systems (MAVIS)

MAVIS (30 employees) is an abbreviation of the Dutch words Monsterontvangst (sample receive) Administratie (administration), Voorbehandeling (pre-treatment), Inkoop (purchase) and Systemen (Systems). All these services facilitate the research within WFSR based on their own expertise.

Sample reception, administration and pre-treatment

All samples are received here. After these have been checked, the intake follows and the data is recorded in our Laboratory Information and Management System (LIMS). The samples are then ready to be processed.

The first step, the Pre-treatment, takes place in the sample chamber. About twenty people work here. These prepare the samples so that they are suitable for further analysis in the labs. This involves taking a correct sub-sample, grinding it, and then weighing/filling it in packaging suitable for the laboratory. Two to three employees in the administration work on the manual administrative steps and checks.


This department consists of two employees. Part of the job consists of managing the purchasing process, especially for consumables. The other part is that, through their good relationships with users and suppliers, the employees can contribute ideas and advice during development or improvement contracts, in the selection, purchase and maintenance of all kinds of tools and equipment.


Within WFSR we use a number of applications that facilitate our process. The most important of these is our LIMS. Technical and functional management of these applications is done by four employees. Often in collaboration with suppliers and FB. The latter is the IT department of WUR. Technical substantive knowledge combined with a good understanding of the processes and peculiarities of a research/laboratory environment is what characterises this department.

Team leader

Teams Business Unit Contaminants & Toxicology

Team Natural Toxins

This team (20 people) is specialised in detecting toxins (poisons) that occur in food products and animal feed. This specifically concerns toxins produced by fungi, algae and plants that pose a possible risk to human and animal health.

We use chemical techniques (chromatography and mass spectrometry) to measure whether toxins are present in food and animal feed. If these toxins are measured, we determine whether the concentrations of these toxins are not higher than legally permitted.

In addition, we conduct research into improving analysis methods so that we can measure toxins increasingly more reliably. In addition to toxins that are legally regulated, we can also detect and identify new toxins with advanced equipment.

The Natural Toxins team is the National and European Reference Laboratory for the analysis of mycotoxins and plant toxins and the National Reference Laboratory for phycotoxins.

Team Pesticides 1

In this team (25 employees) we annually carry out a large number of analyses of crop protection products and pesticides in food, raw materials and animal feed. For example, we look at fruit and vegetables, but also at fresh products that enter Europe via container transport from outside Europe via the port of Rotterdam or via Dutch airports.

There are very short reporting periods for samples of fresh products such as vegetables, fruit and various import products. Every day we report results that are used to monitor food safety in the Netherlands, but also Europe.

To ensure a short reporting period, a clear working method, sufficient equipment and good organisation are important. We therefore work on method development in which we improve existing analysis methods and develop new methods.

Type of work

We have targeted multi-residue methods based on chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS, GC-MS/MS). This allows us to detect hundreds of pesticides in one analysis. In addition, we make extensive use of non-target full scan screening methods based on GC-high resolution MS and LC-high resolution MS, and of specific single residue methods. For our analyses we work with QuECheRS preprocessing. This is a very efficient and easy way to prepare our samples for the different analyses.

Crop protection products are also tested every year using non-destructive methods, such as NMR and FT-IR.

Team Pesticides 2

In this team (25 employees) we conduct research into pesticides in the food chain, where these substances occur in the environment and spread and accumulate in humans and animals. We develop new methods to detect pesticides, both substances and their metabolites that are permitted and substances that are not or no longer permitted in the European Union.

The focus is on the analysis of animal products, such as meat, milk and eggs, and on the analysis of human materials, such as urine, feces and blood. To be able to work safely with these biological materials, we have a BSL-II laboratory.

Innovation is very important to our team. Together with other WFSR teams, we are working hard on new techniques. We also conduct a lot of research in (inter)national research consortia in which participants from all over Europe work together to develop knowledge about the risks of chemicals. For example, we contribute to the development of new methods such as suspect screening and non-target screening, and methods for analysis of new sample materials, such as blood spots and silicone wristbands. These methods will be used to determine the extent to which people are exposed to pesticides.

Type of work

We work with targeted multi-residue methods based on chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS, GC-MS/MS), with which we can detect hundreds of pesticides in one analysis. In addition, we use non-target full scan screening methods based on GC-high resolution MS and LC-high resolution MS, and specific single residue methods.

The data we generate with the high-resolution MS systems is complex. To analyse this data, methods are developed using advanced software.

Our team also coordinates the tasks of the Dutch Pesticide Reference Laboratory. This means that we collaborate with other reference laboratories in Europe to ensure the quality of pesticide research.

Team Toxicology

This team (13 people) investigates (possible) negative effects of substances in food on human health. Every substance is toxic, provided it is dosed at high enough levels, but some substances lead to health problems even at extremely low concentrations. Our primary task is to determine which substances pose a toxicological hazard, from what concentrations, and via which mechanism(s).

Type of work

Toxicity is a harmful interaction between a substance and an organism. Sometimes the substance (or substance class, such as PFAS) is central to our work. This is, for example, the case with file assessments that we carry out.

Furthermore, many of our projects are aimed at developing methods with which a specific toxic effect can be reproducibly determined for a wide range of substances (screening). And preferably without using laboratory animals.

Both types of work are an extension of each other: without substances of concern, there would be no reason to develop methods, and without methods it is impossible to determine whether that concern is justified or not.

In practice, our research often involves answering two types of questions:

  • What is the impact of a substance on possible targets in humans (physiology based dynamics)?
  • What does the organism do with the substance, in terms of absorption, distribution, breakdown and excretion (physiology based kinetics)

Team Organic Contaminants

This team (30 people) conducts research into a wide range of organic chemical contaminants that can occur in food and animal feed. We carry out analyses to identify which organic substances occur and how much. We also develop analytical methods for new substances and improve existing methods.

Various groups of contaminants unintentionally enter the food chain via the soil, air or surface and groundwater. Think of micro- and nanoplastics and PFAS. We are increasingly gaining insight into where these undesirable substances accumulate in the environment, how they are absorbed into plants and then end up in animal feed or food for human consumption.

A special category of substances are dioxins; a collective name for a large group of highly toxic substances that are formed during incomplete combustion and that break down poorly in the environment. If there are major fires on factory sites, we immediately receive samples from the area for analysis. Our analyses may lead to farmers being advised to put their cows in stables.

There are also organic contaminants that arise during the industrial processing or packaging of animal feed and foodstuffs. For example, heating food (such as baking bread or frying potatoes) produces a carcinogenic substance, acrylamide.

Type of work

The basis of the work lies in chemical analyses using a wide range of mass spectrometric techniques. We also improve and develop new analysis methods.

Team leader

Team Inorganic Contaminants

This team (15 people) works on three types of substances that do not belong in the food chain and that the government must actively enforce.

  • Heavy metals. Consider, for example, mercury or arsenic, which can enter the food chain via the soil or water. We are the national reference laboratory for heavy metals.
  • Radioactive substances. A number of radioactive materials occur naturally in soil, water or atmosphere, but can accumulate in plants and animals and thus pose risks to public health
  • Food additives that may not or to a limited extent be added to foodstuffs according to the Commodities Act. Consider nitrate/nitrite or sulfite.

We continuously analyse all kinds of food and feed products for the presence of the above-mentioned substances to determine whether these products meet legal standards. In addition, we develop new analytical methods and refine existing methods to perform chemical analyses in new matrices.

Type of work

The basis of the work in our team lies in chemical and radiochemical analyses. We do this using ICP-MS, HPLC and radiation equipment. We also improve and develop new analysis methods. We also carry out desk work.

Teams Business Unit Microbiology & Agrochains

Team Agrochains

This team (24 people) work on food safety issues in our present and changing food system. We focus on food safety aspects of our circular economy, the use of new proteins and the effects of climate change on food safety. Insects are an example of a circular new protein source for food and feed, where we focus to investigate food safety issues to overcome these in future. Furthermore, we develop tools to predict and prioritized food safety hazards in all type of food systems.

Then we have experts working on food safety issues related to genetic modification in plants, animal and microorganisms. To do all this work we work together with the different labs within WFSR and other partners in diverse type of projects, such as PPP projects, EU projects and projects for the Dutch Ministry.

Team Bacteriology, Molecular Biology & AMR

This team (20 people) develop new methods and/or accredited methods for Bacteriology, AB screening, Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR), on-site testing and allergens. The work is a combination of lab- and deskwork. Some interesting projects we work on relate to metagenomics; automated colony counting and molecular identifications of allergens.

Team Microbiology & Antibiotics Screening

This team (17 people) analyse a lot of different pathogens en non pathogens and do AB screening in slaughter, food and feed samples. The research takes place in the context of feed and food safety for the domestic market, import and export. The work mainly consists of lab work, in which large numbers of products are examined using classical microbiology, molecular biology and antibiotic screening methods with very efficient validated methods/techniques.

Every day we test products for the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria. Consider, for example, Salmonella or Campylobacter in chicken. We also analyse our food for the presence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and do antibiotic screening in samples. With our research we support, among others, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).

Team leader

Team Microbiology

This team (14 people) analyse a lot of different pathogens en non pathogens in food and feed samples. The research takes place in the context of feed and food safety for the domestic market, import and export. The work mainly consists of lab work, in which large numbers of products are examined using classical microbiology and molecular biology with very efficient validated methods/techniques.


Team Virology, GGO & Visual technics

This team (20 people) we work on virological research, visual research, research into genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and animal species identification.

Part of our work consists of routine analyses commissioned by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). These include, for example, monitoring projects for food safety and sample analyses in the context of the import and export of food and animal feed.

We also work on optimizing methods, quality assurance (validation and accreditation) and exploring innovative techniques. We are the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for foodborne viruses. We are the national expertise center in this domain. We are also the NRL for GMOs in food and animal feed and the NRL for vegetable proteins. Visual Technieken works together with GMO to identify these harmful substances.

Team Data Science

This team (20 people) use data science and artificial intelligence to investigate food safety hazards from large amounts of data. This includes natural language processing, mining of online data mining, (holistic) predictive risk modelling, deep learning analysis of microscopy & satellite images, federated AI learning, explainable AI, Knowledge graphs and Graph Neural Networks, multivariate data analysis, bioinformatics & metagenomics, and constructing databases and dashboards for internal and external stakeholders.

Our lab is the computer and our high performance computing clusters

We work on many interesting projects. These can be funded by the European Commission, but we also perform work for the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) and we partake in public-private projects.