Report: Dioxins in fish liver high

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
April 5, 2010

Fish livers showed the highest levels of toxic dioxins in food samples evaluated by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientists recently.

Reviewing more than 7,000 food samples collected over nine years, EFSA researchers concluded that fish liver and derivative products held the highest average dioxins levels in relation to total product weight.

In animal feed, the highest average levels were found in fish oil, reported EFSA scientists.

Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) are chemical byproducts hailing from a variety of industrial and combustion processes. While they have no immediate impact on human health, they can cause problems if absorbed into the body at high levels for long periods of time. As a result, continued concern exists about the potential adverse health effects of exposure to dioxins, and Europe continues to closely track levels in member states.

Foods high in animal fat are the main source of dioxins and PCBs in the human diet, although all foods, according to the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), contain at least low levels of these substances.

The FSA claimed that levels of dioxins and PCBs in any one individual’s diet will vary depending on the amounts and types of foods they consume. Intakes in the UK, said the FSA, have plunged 85 percent since 1982.

Investigating 7,270 samples collected from 19 European Union member states, Norway and Iceland between 1999 and 2008, EFSA scientists concluded that, overall, 8 percent of the samples exceeded the different maximum levels set in EU legislation.

But with a note of warning, the EFSA said: “The current results clearly include results from both random and targeted monitoring, although not specifically stated and should be interpreted with some caution.”

The report concluded that “no clear trend” can be established regarding changes in dioxin levels in food and animal feed over time, “as there were increases in some categories but decreases in others.”

Further, added EFSA researchers, occasional contamination episodes and a lack of information regarding whether samples resulted from targeted or random sampling “make it difficult to assess such trends.”

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