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EU - Tolerable intake levels updated for dioxins and related PCBs

EFSA has confirmed the conclusion of previous assessments that dietary exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs is a health concern, and has accordingly updated tolerable intake levels. The new tolerable weekly intake (TWI) is seven-times lower than the previous EU tolerable intake set by the European Commission’s former Scientific Committee on Food in 2001.

December 7, 2018

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has confirmed the conclusion of previous assessments that dietary exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs is a health concern. Data from European countries indicate an exceedance of EFSA’s new tolerable intake level across all age groups.

Dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs are toxic chemicals that persist in the environment for years and accumulate at low levels in the food chain, usually in the fatty tissues of animals. EFSA’s expert Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) has completed the Authority’s first comprehensive review of the risks to human and animal health from these substances in food and feed.

The newtolerable weekly intake (TWI) is seven-times lower than the previous EU tolerable intake set by the European Commission’s former Scientific Committee on Food in 2001.

“The main reasons for the decrease were the availability of new epidemiological and experimental animal data on the toxicity of these substances and more refined modelling techniques for predicting levels in the human body over time.”

The main contributors to average dietary exposure for most age groups in European countries are fish (in particular fatty fish), cheese and livestock meat.

“These exceedances are a health concern, but the toxicity of the most harmful dioxin-like PCB may be overestimated,” stated Dr Hoogenboom. “When calculating the toxicity of substances like these, we use internationally-agreed values known as ‘toxicity equivalency factors’ (TEFs). The Panel would support a review of the TEFs for both dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in light of new scientific data. If confirmed to be less toxic, this would reduce the concern for consumers.

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