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Food Safety



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".

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Further information