Citing new data on their potential to adversely affect the health of humans and animals, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has adopted new tolerable intake levels for dioxin and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in food and feed products.
Dioxin and dioxin-like PCBs are byproducts of industrial processes that can persist in the environment for years and can accumulate at low levels in livestock. While their presence in food and feed has generally declined over the past 30 years, a review by the EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) of recent epidemiological and experimental data on the potential toxicity of dioxin and PCBs determined that lower tolerable weekly intake (TWI) levels are advisable.
Accordingly, the EFSA has set a new TWI for dioxin and dioxin-like PCBs in food of two picograms per kilogram of body weight, a level seven times lower than the EU’s previous TWI set in 2001. The EFSA says that this reduced TWI level is protective against the effects on human semen quality as well as higher levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones in newborns.
At the same time, the EFSA CONTAM notes that the “toxicity of the most harmful dioxin-like PCB may be overestimated,” and that it welcomes a review of internationally-accepted toxicity equivalent factors (TEFs) to further assess the potential concerns for consumers.
The text of the EFSA’s press release regarding its action on TWI levels for dioxin and dioxin-like PCBs is available here.