EFSA to review dioxin and PCB levels in feed

The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) is to carry out its first risk assessment for animal and human health related to the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in feedstuffs.

The European Commission has instructed EFSA to provide a scientific opinion estimating the toxicity of these contaminants for humans; to gauge the dietary exposure of the EU human population to dioxins as well as the exposure of various animal species to dioxins in their feed and to estimate the carry-over of dioxins and PCBs from feed to food products of animal origin.

The Commission’s original mandate imposed an April 2016 deadline for this work. But EFSA has secured an extension to June 2017 in view of the magnitude and complexity of the work involved. Preliminary discussions are expected to start over the next few months.

EFSA advises that dioxins and PCBs are found at low levels in many foodstuffs, and emanate from the environment as a result of burning and industrial emissions. It says longer-term exposure to these substances has been shown to cause a range of adverse effects on the nervous, immune and endocrine systems; to impair reproductive function and may also be a cause of cancer. The compounds are persistent and accumulate in the food chain, particularly in animal fat, so are views as a potential health risk.

There have been previous feed and food crises in Europe over dioxins in fatty acids and dried feed co-products, linked to poor identification of hazard and risk management procedures.  These culminated in EU Regulation 225/2012 requiring dioxin testing of fats, oils and derived products for feed use, among other measures.