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Persistent Pollutants

EU science advisers recommend lower safe level of dioxin, some PCBs to consume in food

by Cheryl Hogue
November 22, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 47

Photo shows two cooked filets of salmon next to a fork.
Credit: Shutterstock
Eating fatty fish, including salmon, is a primary source of exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in European countries.

A European Union science advisory panel is recommending a lower tolerable intake level of dioxins and 12 dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls in food. This new level is 2 pg/kg of body weight per week for all the compounds combined, the European Food Safety Authority’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain announced Nov. 20. This amount is one-seventh the EU’s current tolerable intake level, set in 2001, for this group of persistent pollutants that share similar toxic properties. The lower level will protect against decreased semen quality, the adverse health effect observed at the lowest level of these toxic contaminants in human blood, says Ron Hoogenboom, a food safety expert at Wageningen University & Research. New epidemiological and experimental animal data and more refined modeling to predict levels in people led to the lower standard, says Hoogenboom, who chaired the panel’s dioxins working group. The primary exposure to the chemicals in European countries is through the consumption of fatty fish, cheese, and red meat, the food safety agency says.


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