Chemical and biological references


Every day we use many different products and services without even thinking about it, ranging from food to plastics, cosmetics and cleaning agents. We trust manufacturers of these products to comply with recommended health guidelines. In exactly the same way, we rely on clinical laboratory testing when it comes to making decisions in the healthcare system.

In the “Chemical and biological references” division, our services enable industry, the research sector and administrative bodies to perform reliable, accurate and traceable measurements. In order to ensure that these measurements are comparable, we provide traceability to internationally agreed reference values.

To guarantee high-quality and efficient analysis, we continuously advocate the development of new analysis methods and the further development of existing ones. The “Chemical and biological references” laboratory is accredited alongside the “Chemical tests and consultancy” division, under standard SN EN ISO/IEC 17025:2018, accreditation number STS 0119.

In order to keep pace with developments regarding the state of the art, we are continuously enhancing our measuring capabilities. To that end, we conduct various research and development projects.


We examine a wide variety of analytes, for example:

  • various process contaminants
  • toxic elements and polyaromatic hydrocarbons in food
  • volatile organic compounds, for example allergenic fragrances
  • biocides and preservatives
  • nucleic acids: at the limit of detection


On behalf of the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, we run reference laboratories for elements and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). (Link)

We perform analyses relating to chemicals legislation on behalf of the Federal Office of Public Health.

Our clients are mainly administrative units of the Swiss Confederation, but our experience in traceable analysis (also trace analysis) is available to all interested parties on request.

Using reference materials traced to the SI system (“metrologically traceable”) is the method of choice in order to guarantee the comparability of measurements, and thus  their quality, in the long term. In this context, we position ourselves as a reliable point of contact and service provider, and are happy to provide information about the added value of metrology.

If you have any questions about our services or require a consultation, we will be happy to be of assistance. Contact us with no obligation on your part.

Research and development

We keep our measurement facilities and expertise at the forefront of technology with the aid of research and development projects. This enables us to continue offering the required services and promoting innovation in the years to come. At the same time, we work with other metrology institutes, universities, administrative bodies and industry.

In the context of the EURAMET research programmes, we are also involved in several European projects.


Our R&D focal points are:

Metrology in food safety 

Contaminants are materials which unintentionally end up in food, e.g. during the production process. They are undesirable due to their toxicity and require special attention during analysis. Thanks to our highly accurate measuring devices and procedures, we can guarantee the traceability of contaminants in food/food matrices based on internationally agreed reference values. This is made possible, on the one hand, by the “Metrology in food safety” project and, on the other hand, because of our capacity as a reference laboratory for polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and “chemical elements”.


Nucleic acid metrology 

Clinical laboratory measurements play a key role in medicine and are provided in Switzerland in very high quality. However, they are currently only partially comparable. Metrologically traced measurement values could bring about considerable improvements in this respect. With the “Nucleic acid metrology” project, METAS wants to create the foundations for metrologically traceable measurements of nucleic acids.

Analysing nucleic acids is a sub-discipline of laboratory medicine with great future potential: measurement accuracy and comparability are particularly important when it comes to biological analytes which are relevant in the long term. As part of its efforts to develop and establish this area, METAS is setting up a metrological laboratory for laboratory medicine with a focus on nucleic acids.

Last modification 26.05.2021

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Federal Institute of Metrology
Reference Laboratory for Chemical Elements and Nitrogen Compounds in Foodstuffs
Lindenweg 50
CH-3003 Bern-Wabern
T +41 58 387 01 11

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