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Maximum levels set for dioxins and PCBs in feed and food

Commission Européenne - IP/06/119   03/02/2006

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IP/06/119

Brussels, 03 February 2006

Maximum levels set for dioxins and PCBs in feed and food

The European Commission has today adopted new implementing legislation setting maximum levels for the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in food and feed. Maximum levels for dioxins in food of animal origin and all animal feed have been applicable since July 2002. However, due to lack of sufficient data and scientific information at the time, no levels were set for dioxin-like PCBs. Since 2002, new data on dioxin-like PCBs has become available, and the legislation adopted today lays down mandatory limits for the combined level of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. From November 2006, any food or feed in which the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs exceeds these maximum levels will not be allowed to be marketed in the EU. The reduction of persistent chemicals such as dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in the food chain is an important part of ensuring the health and safety of EU consumers. Dioxins and PCBs have toxic properties which can provoke a series of health problems, including cancer, immune and nervous system disorders, liver damage and sterility. The maximum levels adopted today contribute to the comprehensive Commission strategy, launched in 2001, to reduce the level of dioxins and PCBs in the environment, food and feed.

European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Markos Kyprianou said: “In setting these maximum levels, the Commission is taking another step forward in protecting the EU consumer from the harmful long-term effects of dioxin and dioxin-like PCB consumption. We will continue to pursue our comprehensive strategy against these noxious substances, continually reviewing the ways in which we can reduce human exposure to them. It is now up to national authorities to ensure that monitoring is properly carried out, so that citizens in all Member States can rely on the same level of protection against these contaminants.”

Protecting the EU consumer

Dioxins and PCBs are toxic chemicals that can provoke serious health effects such as cancer, hormone disruption, reduced ability to reproduce, skin toxicity and immune system disorders. They are extremely resistant to any degradation process, which means that they persist in the environment and accumulate in the food chain. In an effort to reduce human exposure to these toxins, maximum levels for dioxins in food of animal origin and all animal feed have been applicable since July 2002. However, due to lack of sufficient data and scientific information at the time, no levels were set for dioxin-like PCBs.

Since 2002, new data on dioxin-like PCBs has become available, and the legislation adopted today lays down mandatory limits for the combined level of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, based on World Health Organisation (WHO) toxic equivalency factors for these substances.

Food and feed operators have primary responsibility for ensuring that the maximum levels are complied with, while Member State authorities must carry out checks and report to the Commission on their findings. The Commission intends to further review the maximum levels by 31 December 2008, with a view to significantly reducing them further.

More expected targets

It is foreseen that the Commission will also adopt a Recommendation next Monday which sets “action levels” and foresees “target levels” for dioxins and PCBs in feed and food. The action levels are intended as a tool for the early warning of higher than desirable levels of dioxins in food and feed. They are set at a lower level than the maximum levels, and if the action level is exceeded, an investigation should be carried out as to the cause of the presence of dioxins. Once identified, measures should then be taken to reduce or eliminate this cause. This should result in a further decrease of the presence of dioxins and PCBs in feed and food. The target levels, which will be subsequently set, are the levels to be ultimately achieved in order to bring human exposure below the recommended tolerable intake. Target levels will act as the driving force for further measures.

For further information see Memo/06/54


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