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Monday, 19 April 2010

EFSA publishes an overview of dioxin levels in food and feed

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published an analysis of the levels of dioxins and related substances in food and animal feed. The report, which was prepared by EFSA’s Data Collection and Exposure unit, is based on over 7,000 samples collected by 21 European countries between 1999 and 2008. EFSA was asked by the European Commission to evaluate dioxin contamination levels in relation to maximum levels which have been set for different categories of food and feed in the EU in order to protect consumers. Dioxins and similar compounds, such as dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), include a range of toxic substances which are formed by burning – e.g. through waste incineration or forest fires – and some industrial processes. Their presence in the environment has declined since the 1970s, following concerted efforts at the EU level. Dioxins are found at low levels in many foods. They do not cause immediate health problems, but long-term exposure to high levels of dioxins has been shown to cause a range of effects, including cancer. Their persistence and the fact that they accumulate in the food chain, notably in animal fat, therefore continues to cause some safety concerns. The highest average levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in relation to fat content were observed for liver and liver products from animals. The highest average levels in relation to total product weight were for fish liver and products derived from fish liver. In animal feed, the highest average levels were found in fish oil.

Source: The European Food Safety Authority