Contaminants are substances that have not been intentionally added to food. These substances may be present in food as a result of the various stages of its production, packaging, transport or holding. They also might result from environmental contamination. Since contamination generally has a negative impact on the quality of food and may imply a risk to human health, the EU has taken measures to minimise contaminants in foodstuffs.
European Union measures (establishment of maximum levels) have been taken for the following contaminants:
- mycotoxins (aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, patulin, deoxynivalenol, zearalenone, fumonisins, citrinine, ergot sclerotia and ergot alkaloids)
- plant toxins (erucic acid, tropane alkaloids, hydrocyanic acid, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, opium alkaloids, Δ9-THC)
- metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, inorganic tin)
- halogenated persistent organic pollutants (dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs, non dioxin-like PCBs; perfluoroalkyl substances: PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS)
- processing contaminants (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH): benzo(a)pyrene, sum of 4 PAHs; 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol (3-MCPD), glycidyl fatty acid esters)
- other contaminants (nitrates, melamine, perchlorate)
The European Commission has published a factsheet on food contaminants: "Managing food contaminants: how the EU ensures that our food is safe".
- 28 February 2018: Technical expert seminar on the preparation of the UK withdrawal in the SPS area - Food and Water
- European Union Reference Laboratories