Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA News Item, 21 June 2002

CONTAMINANTS - Dioxin levels down, fish oil supplement survey finds

The Food Standards Agency has published results of a survey of dioxin and dioxin-like PCBs in 33 branded fish oil supplements bought from UK retailers.

Most of the levels found were low, although two batches of cod liver oil contained higher levels, which if the oils were consumed at the recommended dosage, would result in a daily intake of more than twice the recommended TDI (tolerable daily intake) set by the independent Committee on Toxicity.

Dioxins and PCBs

Dioxins and PCBs are potentially cancer causing chemicals produced by industrial activity, present in the environment and in food. They have no immediate effect on health, even at the highest levels found in foods, but potential risks to health come from long term exposure to high levels. p> Agency seeks removal of products

The Agency has asked the manufacturers of these two product samples to remove the affected batches from sale. They are:

Dr Jon Bell, FSA Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Food Safety, said: 'Whilst there have been measurable improvements in reducing dioxin levels in fish oil supplements, there is scope for additional action by the fish oil supplement industry to reduce levels still further.

'The Agency has initiated discussions with retailers and industry about ways to continue to reduce levels of potentially harmful dioxins in fish oil supplements'.

Survey findings

The 33 products surveyed contained a wide range of concentration of dioxins, although two products contained levels of dioxins that, when taken at the recommended dosage of fish oil, would provide significantly more dioxin than the rest - at more than two times the TDI.

Exposure to dioxins has decreased considerably - by 75% - over the past twenty years and levels of dioxins and PCBs found in most of the samples taken in this survey are lower than in previous surveys carried out in 1994 and 1996.

New limits

New EU wide dioxin limits will come into force on 1st July 2002 and will be enforced by Local Authorities. The Agency recommends that people continue to eat at least two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily (such as salmon or mackerel), as part of a balanced diet, as fish oils contain properties that could reduce the risk of heart disease. On average, people in the UK eat only a third of a portion of oily fish a week.

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