HomeSafetyDioxins and PCBs in food, the big joke

Dioxins and PCBs in food, the big joke

Regulation (EU) no. 2022/2002 – in partial reform of the reg. EC 1881/2006 on food contaminants – reduces the maximum levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in certain food products. In addition to extending its application to some foods hitherto not considered. (1)

However, the new contamination thresholds established in Brussels contradict the serious and current risk analysis carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Thus the Eurocrats favor the lobby agro-industrial sectors, to the detriment of public health. The big joke.

1) Dioxins and PCBs. Premise

Dioxins and PCBs they are environmental contaminants that are very harmful to health. Dioxins are chlorinated organic compounds which are formed during combustion processes (e.g. domestic and industrial waste). They spread in the environment through the air, accumulate in soils and waters, persist for a long time in the environment.

PCBs they have been widely used for various purposes (e.g. plasticizers in paints, sealants and plastics, non-combustible liquids in heat exchangers, transformers and electrical capacitors). Twelve PCBs have similar mechanisms of action and biological effects to dioxins (dioxin-like PCBs).

1.2) Environmental and food contamination

The sale of materials with PCBs has been banned in several countries since the 80s, but they still remain in the environment – ​​especially in soils – due to their widespread use in building materials and equipment.

Foods of animal origin (meat, fish and shellfish, eggs, milk) represent the main source of human exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. These substances are in fact fat-soluble and accumulate in animal fats.

2) Public health risks

Dioxins and PCBs Dioxin-like substances are toxic chemicals with carcinogenic and genotoxic action, as well as being endocrine disruptors. Their exposure is related to chronic effects on the reproductive functions and the hormonal balance, the immune and nervous systems.

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), in 2018, reduced by 7 times the permissible weekly dose indicated by the Scientific Committee for Food (European Commission, 2001). By detecting medium and high levels of exposure of the European population, up to 5-15 times higher than this threshold. (2)

WHOWorld Health Organizationis in turn reviewing equivalent toxicity factors (Toxic Equivalence Factors, TEF) established in 2005), in the light of new in vivo and in vitro data, in particular on PCB-126. The overhaul work is expected to be completed in 2023.

2.1) Sources of dietary exposure

The main sources of dietary exposure of European citizens to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs indicated by EFSA are respectively, for the different age groups:

– children and adolescents, adults and the elderly. Fish fat (contributing up to 56%), unspecified fish meat” (up to 53,4%), cattle meat (up to 33,8%), cheese (up to 21,8%),

- children. Meats (7,7-16,2%), cheese (5,9-21,8%), fatty fish (5,9-13,9%),

– infants. Butter (6,1-19,6%), fatty fish (5,8-26,3%). (2)

3) The new rules

The reg. EU 2022/2002 recall the tolerable weekly dose of 2 pg TEQ (toxic equivalency)/kg of body weight, for the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, established by EFSA. Better late than never, four years after the identification of concrete and serious public health risks. And so:

– introduces maximum levels of dioxins and the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs on meat and meat-based products obtained from goats, horses, rabbits, wild boars, game birds, deer. In addition to the livers of goats, horses and game birds,

– extends to the abdominal muscle of crabs and similar crustaceans, 'especially the chinese crab', the thresholds already foreseen for the muscle of their claws,

– extends the maximum level for hen's eggs to all poultry eggs, with the exception of goose eggs,

– reduces the maximum levels of dioxins and the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in milk and dairy products. (1)

4) The big joke

The European Commission in fact disregards the risk analysis carried out in 2018 by EFSA, with a mocking excuse. Although EFSA is the reference authority for any scientific assessment of food safety in the EU, DG Sante reports that it wants to wait 'the completion of the review' of the tolerable thresholds of dioxins and PCBs by WHO (EU regulation 2022/2002, Recital 5).

The big joke of Eurocrats to European citizens is soon unveiled, noting the following:

– EFSA reduced by 7 times the Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) on the basis of which the maximum levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in the various food categories were defined,

– EFSA has highlighted the overcoming of the TWI by European citizens, up to 5-15 times as much. Pointing to fatty fish, livestock and cheeses as prime sources of dietary exposure, (3)

– however, the European Commission did not intervene on fatty fish and confined itself to a 'cosmetic' reduction in the maximum levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in meat (from 4,5 to 4,0 pg/g, in fat) and in cheeses (6,0 to 4,0 pg/g, on the fat).

5) Provisional conclusions

Food products 'legally marketed before 1 January 1 can remain on the market until the minimum durability date or until the expiry date'(EU reg. 2022/2002, art. 2).

DG Sante in Brussels the great hoax continues. Chemical contaminants remain out of control, in the case of dioxins and PCBs as in those of acrylamide e BPA, just to name a couple of examples. In addition to allergens, which also afflict almost 10% of the population. (4)

On hold to see the fateful 'Restriction RoadmapEuropean Union, the emergency of toxic sludge in agriculture should also be reported to the current Italian government, which the first Conte government legitimized in 2018 (5,6).

Dario Dongo

Footnotes to the story

(1) Reg. (EU) 2022/2002, amending Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 as regards the maximum levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in certain food products

(2) EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain, CONTAM Panel. (2018). Scientific Opinion on the risk for animal and human health related to the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in feed and food. EFSA Journal 2018;16(11):5333, 331 pp.

(3) Institute of Food Science and Technology (2020). Dioxins and Dioxin-like Compounds in Foods and Feeds

(4) Dario Dongo. False alert, blame game, abuse of power and social disastersGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.7.22

(5) Martha Strinati. Dangerous chemistry, the European Commission's Restrictions Roadmap. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.5.22

(6) Dario Dongo. Toxic sludge in the Genoa decree, repeal immediately. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.12.18

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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