Food Law News - EU - 2001

Commission Press Release (IP/01/1698), 29 November 2001

CONTAMINANTS - Dioxin in Food Byrne welcomes adoption by Council of dioxin limits in food

Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne today welcomed the adoption by the Council of a Regulation setting legally binding limits on the presence of dioxin and other contaminants in food. Any food exceeding these strict limits is excluded from the food chain. The measures on food are a key element of the comprehensive strategy the Commission put forward to improve the safety of feed and food in response to the dioxin contamination problems of the past. Byrne thanked the Belgian Presidency for facilitating a rapid agreement on the proposal the Commission put forward in July this year. An equivalent proposal setting maximum limits in feed was adopted by the Council on Tuesday (IP/01/1670).

"I am pleased to see the Ministers recognise that we need to be uncompromising and severe on contaminants in food. This new legislation, in setting legally binding limits, sets a new milestone in the EU's feed and food safety strategy" Byrne said commenting the outcome of today's Council. He added: "Only very few countries in the world have yet set legally binding levels for dioxins in food. These measures, as part of a comprehensive strategy, will undoubtedly reduce the presence of dioxins in food. Our strategy aims to deal with a complicated cycle of contamination necessitating simultaneously measures to reduce the presence of dioxins, furans and PCBs in environment, feedingstuffs and foodstuffs. While these measures offer protection of consumer health, the ultimate goal must be to further reduce dioxin release at the source, to stop it from entering the environment."

The Council Regulation adopted today is a part of an overall strategy to reduce the presence of dioxins and PCBs in environment, feed and food. Measures to limit or to eliminate the emission of dioxins into the environment through source-directed measures are of major importance to reduce the overall contamination by dioxins. These measures are addressed in a Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee on a Community strategy for dioxins, furans and PCBs, which the Commission adopted on 24 October 2001 (see IP/01/1492 of 25 October 2001).

The adopted Regulation is an amendment of the Commisison Regulation (EC/466/2001) on maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. It fixes strict but feasible maximum levels for dioxin in food. A derogation was granted by the Council to Finland and Sweden to continue marketing Baltic fish exceeding the limits on their own territory for local consumption until 2006.

The maximum levels for dioxins and furans in food established by the adoptedRegulation, form the first step of the measures concerning foodstuffs. In a forthcoming Commission Recommendation, the establishment of action levels and, over time, target levels for foodstuffs is foreseen which are lower than the maximum thresholds adopted today. The action levels will act as a tool for "early warning" triggering a proactive approach from competent authorities and operators to identify sources and pathways of contamination and to take measures to eliminate them.

The target levels are the levels to be achieved ultimately, acting as the driving force for measures which are necessary to further reduce emissions into the environment

In a separate Declaration attached to the Regulation, the Commission underlined the importance of national monitoring activities in the Member States to verify the respect of the levels as set. The declaration announces Commission initiatives for establishing concrete guidelines for this monitoring work, notably for the number of samples to be taken for each category of food. The data obtained from this and other monitoring exercises will form the basis for any further revision of the maximum levels adopted today.

The Regulation will enter into force on 1 July 2002.

See also: IP/01/1045 of 20 July 2001 (Commission proposes strategy to reduce dioxin in food and feed) at

And also MEMO/01/270 of 20 July 2001 (Factsheet on dioxin in food and feed) at:

To go to main Food Law Index page, click here.