The EU will reduce the levels of arsenic in some food products

The European Commission has tightened the rules on the presence of arsenic in food products.

The allowable concentration of inorganic arsenic in white rice is lowered, while there are new limits for arsenic in some rice-based foods, infant formula, baby food, fruit juice, and salt.

Arsenic is present in low concentrations in rocks, soil, and natural groundwater, with food and drinking water being the main routes of human exposure. Inorganic forms of arsenic are more toxic than organic arsenic.

Children under 3 years of age are most exposed to inorganic arsenic, especially infants who eat rice-based formula. Developmental problems in children have been documented.

Heavy rice consumers, such as certain ethnic groups, and people who eat a lot of seaweed-based products are the main groups exposed to inorganic arsenic.

The lower maximum levels are part of the European Cancer Fight Plan to limit or eliminate the carcinogenic risk associated with chemicals in food.

reducing the risk
The decision is based on a 2021 scientific report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and comes after member states were told to monitor the presence of arsenic in food.

EU standards will follow the Codex Alimentarius maximum level of 0.5 mg/kg for total arsenic in salt. Other products covered are cereals and cereal-based products, milled unparboiled rice, parboiled and husked rice, rice flour, rice cakes and crackers, and non-alcoholic rice-based beverages. Maximum levels differ by product.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, He 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.”

Safe Food Advocacy Europe said it welcomes any measures that prevent or reduce the exposure of European consumers to harmful substances in food.

The existing maximum levels for arsenic in food products were established in 2015 based on an EFSA opinion which found that inorganic arsenic can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer.

Due to issues related to testing for inorganic arsenic in a number of foods, maximum arsenic levels were initially only set for rice and rice-based products.

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.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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