13 October 2004 18:02 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--EU member states voted on Wednesday to limit the permitted levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in foods, following a proposal originally submitted by the European Commission (EC).
From next April, levels of benzo-a-pyrene in food should be less than 5 parts per billion (ppb) for shellfish and smoked foods, less than 2ppb for fish and oil products, and less than 1ppb in baby foods. Benzo-a-pyrene is used as a measure of total PAH content.
PAHs are combustion products that can contaminate foods through smoking, heating or drying processes. They can also be present in vegetable oils and animal fats, for example in fish that have been contaminated by oil spills.
Control of PAHs in food has been in the Commission's sights ever since an incident in July 2001 when food products made from Spanish olive oil had to be withdrawn from markets across the EU after being found to be contaminated with high levels of PAHs. The Commission's scientific committee on food decided in a report of December 2002 that PAHs are genotoxic carcinogens.
However, the decision to introduce EU-wide maximum levels for PAHs is more commercial than health related. Several member states have already adopted them while others have not, and the Commission is worried that market unity across the EU will be endangered.
Today's decision on PAH limits was taken by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, a body chaired by the Commission but including representatives of the member states. The new regulation will now be referred back to the Commission for formal adoption, and should come into force next April.
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