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Food Samples Tested by EFSA Contain Dioxins

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its analysis of feed and food samples this week.  The analysis found that eight percent of the samples contained excessive levels of dioxins.  According to the EFSA, these results were found in targeted, not random tests.

The report, prepared by EFSA’s Data Collection and Exposure unit, compiled its findings from over 7,000 samples collected by 21 European countries between the years of 1999 and 2008.  The European Commission asked EFSA to evaluate dioxin contamination levels in relation to maximum levels which were set for different categories of food and feed in the European Union in order to protect consumers.

Dioxins, found at low levels in numerous foods, do not cause immediate health problems.  Long-term exposure to high levels of dioxins has been shown to cause a range of side effects ranging from a serious skin condition called chloracne to cancer.

Persistence of dioxins and the fact that they accumulate in the food chain, primarily in animal fat, causes officials to have concerns over safety.

The highest levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in relation to fat content were observed for liver and liver products from animals.Highest average levels of the substances were found in fish liver and

products derived from fish liver (relative to total product weight). 


all, eight percent of tested samples exceeded the different maximum

levels set by EU legislation.  EFSA stresses that some of the samples

clearly originated from targeted sampling as a result of specific

contamination episodes. 

Also noted in the findings were large

variations between different groups of food and feed regarding the

proportion of samples which exceed maximum levels.


results are somewhat alarming, the report concludes that no clear trend

can be established regarding changes in background levels of dioxins

and related substances in food and feed over time, as results were

inconsistent across categories. 

Occasional contamination

episodes in addition to a lack of information on which samples resulted

from targeted or random sampling made it difficult to assess such


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