Quaternary ammonium compounds

In the past, increasing amounts of quaternary ammonium compound (QACs) residues have been detected in and on food. The main types are benzalkonium chloride (BAC) and didecyldimethylammonium chloride (DDAC). Due to their surface-active properties, QAV are used as cationic surfactants in products such as fabric conditioners or as antistatic agents (e. g. in shampoo). They also belong to the group of biocides, since they have a disinfectant effect. This is why they are used in hospitals, in food processing and in agriculture. In most cases QAV also form the main active ingredient in anti-algae agents (algaecides) used in public baths and swimming pools. In the European Union DDAC is approved as active ingredient in pesticide formulations.

Legal regulations

EU regulation No. 396/2005 does not specify any maximum residue levels for BAC or DDAC. Hence, the general limit value of 0.01 mg/kg is applied. In Germany, however, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health published a threshold value of 0.5 mg/kg in a guideline on DDAC On July 13th 2012. This value is a preliminary residue level that is valid until a specific maximum level has been specified for the products listed in Annex I of Regulation (EU) No. 396/2005. Since July 26th 2012, the same threshold value has also been valid for benzalkonim chloride. If BAC and DDAC occur simultaneously, the safety value applies to each group separately. For processed products and compound products a respective processing factor must be applied.


ifp Institut für Produktqualität performs QAV detection by means of LC-MS/MS.