How to assess data

Submitting data on contaminants and residues and analytical data on food additives to EFSA should follow the requirements of EFSA’s Guidance on Standard Sample Description (SSD) for Food and Feed.

This guidance specifies the data elements, the sample data structure and the format for analytical results for chemical contaminants and residues in food and feed included in monitoring and control programmes. It also lists the controlled terminologies and validation rules to standardise data quality.

Data, complying with the guidance, should be submitted electronically to EFSA through the Data Collection Framework (DCF), which is a web interface set up specifically for electronic data exchange. 

Data submission formats

Data can be submitted through the DCF in the following formats:

  • Extensible Markup Language (XML);
  • Microsoft (MS) Excel® (XLS) or Comma Separated Values (CSV) format complying with the SSD guidance.

The XML format is preferred as it allows for automatic validation of the file through an XML schema. The schema is available in the Guidance on Data Exchange.

If MS Excel® or CSV formats are used, they should comply with the SSD guidance and the following basic rules:

  • the column name must be the same as the name reported in the “element name” column of the Standard Sample Description;
  • if the data element is linked to a catalogue, the “code” from the corresponding catalogue should be used;
  • mandatory data elements must always be completed;
  • only XLS files (MS Excel® 2003 and before) can be uploaded as the DCF does not support XLSX files (MS Excel® 2007 onwards). Files should be saved in a format compatible with MS Excel® 2003.

An additional format - MS Excel® Simplified Reporting Format - is also available for organisations that only occasionally submit data to EFSA (e.g. universities or food and feed business operators). This format is structured in accordance with the SSD guidance and provides features that support manual data entry. Please follow the below rules for the correct use of the reporting format without compromising its functionalities:

  1. Read the instructions carefully
  2. Download and save the MS Excel® Standard Sample Description file to your computer (do not open the file before saving and do not change the file name)
  3. Download and save the file MS Excel® Simplified Reporting Format (do not open the file before saving)
  4. Keep both Excel files in the same folder
  5. Open both Excel files and enable the macros
  6. Keep both files open in the same Excel instance when filling in the data
  7. Submit the Excel file (MS Excel® Simplified Reporting Format) with the data via email to data.collection [at]

Mandatory fields and specific requirements

The SSD guidance defines approximately 20 mandatory data elements to enable a unique description of the sample.

However, for the data collection on specific contaminants more detailed information may be necessary to comprehensively describe the sample and the analytical results. In this case, optional fields may be considered mandatory (e.g. fat percentage in data collected on dioxins) or more detailed information may be requested for certain data elements (e.g. a more detailed food description).

In order to collect all information necessary for EFSA to carry out its data analysis and exposure assessments, a list of specific requirements by chemical substance is available and you can download it below. EFSA strongly encourages considering this list when preparing the file for submission as it will reduce the need for additional information at a later stage.

Data collection framework

EFSA’s Data Collection Framework (DCF) is a web interface accessible by most common web browsers through which data providers can submit their files. The system provides automatic feedback on errors in structure and content, and confirmation of successful submissions.

The application requires a specific user ID and password which can be requested from data.collection [at]

Registration to the DCF application is not necessary for organisations occasionally submitting data to EFSA (e.g. universities or food and feed business operators) who should submit their data using the MS Excel® Simplified Reporting Format and send it by email to data.collection [at]

Please follow the below steps when submitting data through the DCF:

  1. Log into DCF by inserting the username and password received from EFSA
  2. Choose the data collection for which you want to submit data among the following groups of chemicals (as defined in the mandate for “Continuous call for data collection” ):
    • OCC_TEST: only for testing data submission of occurrence data;
    • OCC_GROUP1: POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) and other organic contaminants (e.g. dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, non-dioxin-like PCBs, BFRs (Brominated Flame Retardants), PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl Substances), mineral oil hydrocarbons, organochlorine compounds);

    • OCC_GROUP2: process contaminants (e.g. 3-MCPD esters, ethyl carbamate, PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), furan, acrylamide);

    • OCC_GROUP3: toxins (e.g. marine biotoxins, mycotoxins, plant toxicants and other toxins of biological origin);

    • OCC_GROUP4: others (e.g. nitrates, lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, fluorine, nitrite etc…and other chemical substances not listed in the groups above).

  3. Choose the file type (XML or XLS)
  4. Browse and choose the file to be uploaded (file input)
  5. Submit the file
  6. Check the status of the transmission. You will also receive an automatic “upload notification” email that includes transmission details.
  7. Your submission will be evaluated by EFSA staff and you will be informed by email whether it has been accepted.

Currently, the system only checks the correct completion of the mandatory fields and the common business rules reported in the Guidance on Data Exchange.

Data providers are strongly encouraged to comply with the specific requirements for each substance as missing information may lead to additional requests at a later stage.