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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".

Related links

Non-EU imports

Consignments of food-producing animals, products of animal origin and composite products shall enter the Union only from a third country that has in place a control plan for pharmacologically active substances, pesticides and contaminants setting out guarantees as regards compliance with the Union requirements on the use of pharmacologically active substances, the maximum residue limits of pharmacologically active substances, maximum residue levels of pesticides and maximum levels of contaminants (see consolidated version of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/2292). For more detailed information, please see the "Guidelines on EU requirements for entry of animals and products of animal origin: Control plan for pharmacologically active substances, pesticides and contaminants" on the Residues of veterinary medicinal products page (point IV: Non-EU imports).

Further information