The EU has adopted new limits on the amount of arsenic allowed in certain foods, including infant formula.
The European Commission said lower maximum levels (MLs) are being adopted as part of its ‘Fighting Cancer Plan for Europe’, which aims to limit or eliminate the carcinogenic risk of chemicals in food in member states. EU members.
The new measures will lower the permitted concentration of inorganic arsenic in white rice and set new limits for arsenic in everyday rice-based foods, such as infant formula and baby food, as well as fruit juices and salt.
The previous maximum levels of arsenic in food products were established in 2015 based on an opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stating that inorganic arsenic can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer. The new rules are based on a 2021 scientific report from EFSA.
Announcing the new rules, Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “We are taking additional steps to further reduce the risk of exposure to a carcinogenic contaminant from our food chain. Our citizens want the assurance that the food they eat is safe and these new rules are further proof that food safety standards in the EU remain the highest in the world.”
Arsenic is present in rocks, soils, and natural groundwater in low concentrations, with food and drinking water being the main routes of human exposure.
The new EU limits will follow the Codex Alimentarius maximum level of 0.5 mg/kg for total arsenic in salt. MLs on other covered products differ by product.
Children under three years of age are most exposed to inorganic arsenic, especially infants who eat rice-based formula. Developmental problems in children have been documented.
Responding to the rule change, the Brussels-based organization Safer Food Advocacy Europe (SAFE) said: “SAFE welcomes any measure that prevents or reduces the exposure of European consumers to harmful substances in food.”
Since certain foods covered by the regulation have an extended shelf life, items that were legally traded before the new rules were applied will be able to remain for sale.
In January, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a plan to limit lead content in baby foods.
The initiative three years after a study found heavy metals in 95% of baby foods tested.