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Contaminants in food

Contaminants are substances not intentionally added to food. These substances may be present in food as a result of production, packing, transport or storage, or as a result of environmental contamination. In order to limit the negative impact of contaminants in food and to prevent the risks to human health, the European Union (EU) is taking measures to reduce the level of contaminants in food.


Council Regulation (EEC) No 315/93 of 8 February 1993 laying down Community procedures for contaminants in food [See amending act(s)].


Regulation (EEC) No 315/93 prohibits the marketing of foodstuffs containing an unacceptable amount of residual substances. These substances, called contaminants, are present in food as a result of treatment after production or through environmental contamination. They are likely to pose a hazard to public health. For this reason, the European Union regulates the toxicologically acceptable levels of contaminants and keeps them at the lowest possible levels.

This Regulation does not apply to contaminants which are the subject of more specific rules, or to extraneous matter, such as insect fragments, animal hair, etc.

A Member State may take restrictive measures by reference to the present Regulation if it suspects that the presence of a contaminant poses a hazard to public health. If so, it must inform the other Member States and the Commission immediately and give reasons for its decision. The Commission shall examine the reasons given by the Member State as soon as possible and take appropriate measures after having consulted the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. This Committee assists the Commission on all matters which concern contaminants, including the establishment of authorised maximum tolerances.

Member States may not prohibit trade in foods which comply with this Regulation.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EEC) No 315/93



OJ L 37 of 13.2.1993

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003



OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Regulation (EC) No 596/2009



OJ L 188 of 18.7.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EEC) No 315/93 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 of 19 December 2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs [Official Journal L 364 of 20.12.2006].
This Regulation lays down the maximum admissible content of nitrates, mycotoxins, metals, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, etc. in food.
See consolidated version

Last updated: 09.12.2010
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