Contaminants in foodstuffs

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Related tags: Risk, Risk management, Risk assessment

Contaminants create problems that seem to plague meat and fish producers, as was highlighted in the press earlier this year with the Scottish salmon...

Contaminants create problems that seem to plague meat and fish producers, as was highlighted in the press earlier this year with the Scottish salmon industry coming under fire over levels of organic contaminants in salmon meat.

European Commission regulation EC 684/2004 was published in April amending regulation EC 466/2001, which sets the maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. This regulation clarifies certain food sources and the appropriate limits for dioxin levels. Specifically, the following amendments are made under section 5 of annex 1: ?liver and derived products' becomes ?liver and derived products originating from terrestrial animals'; ?fish and fishery products' is supplemented with an indication that the maximum level also applies where the fish is intended to be consumed whole; ?vegetable oil' is clarified as ?vegetable oils and fats'.

Although the maximum levels were applicable from the July 1, 2002, the compliance set for free-range or semi-intensive eggs was extended until January 10, 2004. However, this date has passed, and investigations are still ongoing to define measures to reduce dioxin levels in these products so the date has been extended to January 1, 2005.

While legislation sets the maximum levels of contaminants for foodstuffs, this is clearly an ongoing issue, particularly as new food scares sell newspapers, and industry then has to handle consumer concerns, which tend to take no heed of legislated maximum levels.

With this in mind, and in line with the requirement to apply risk assessment and risk management to food safety (under regulation EC 178/2002), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has announced a scientific colloquium on the methodologies and principles for setting tolerable intake levels for dioxins, furans and dioxin-like PCB, to be held in Brussels on June 28-29 (see the EFSA website).

The aims are to examine the different approaches taken by authorities around the globe on assessing risk, which ultimately leads to legislation on maximum levels. Perhaps the recommendations could move towards a more harmonised global approach to regulating contaminants in foodstuffs.

Jean Feord, business manager for legislation, Leatherhead Food International. http://www.leatherheadfood.com

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