April 13, 2022

Cinzia Pellicorio | Mérieux NutriSciences Italy


dioxines food safety risks

Dioxins are persistent environmental pollutants (POPs) known as highly toxic chemicals (ex: PCDD, PCDF, DL-PCB) that result from natural combustion processes (ex: forest fires, volcano gas emissions) and from specific anthropogenic activities (ex: waste incineration, industrial production processes).

They are chemical compounds capable of spreading easily in the environment and their presence has been reported in all areas of the world including the most extreme ones such as the poles. They accumulate mainly in the soil, sediments and adipose tissue of animals, representing a threat to the safety of the food chain and a significant risk to public health.

Exposure of living beings to these contaminants occurs through food, mainly feed, meat, dairy products, fish and crustaceans, and their accumulation in the body can cause skin lesions, impaired liver function, damage to the hormonal nervous system, reproductive, immune system and cancer.

Over the years there have been numerous food incidents due to dioxin contamination that have had and are having numerous health repercussions on the population due to a long half-life (between 7 and 11 years) of these substances in the organism. Among the most significant incidents, which involved many countries, we we point out those occurred in:

  • Ireland (in 2008) following detection of high dioxin concentrations up to 200 times the safe limit in pork and pork products. This has led to one of the largest food recalls in history, due to chemical risk.
  • Belgium (in 1999) following the detection of high amounts of dioxins in poultry and eggs.

The problem of food contamination by dioxins is always very current and the greatest contaminations are reported above all in industrialised countries, despite the fact that they are equipped with appropriate systems for monitoring food safety, awareness of the danger and numerous regulations in force.

Over 25 food contamination by dioxins have been reported in the last 5 years and the products involved have been eggs, fish, meat, milk, animal fats, herbs, ready meals and food additives. The main countries of origin of the product were Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Croatia and the United Kingdom (Data source: Safety HUD). 

To prevent and control exposure to dioxins, in addition to a rigorous control of industrial processes to reduce emissions of these substances, it is necessary to avoid contamination of food along all stages of the supply chain (primary production, transformation, distribution, sale ...) through effective and efficient analytical checks of all raw materials and finished products, maximum adherence to good food manufacturing practices and compliance with current regulations.

Furthermore, it is desirable to set up suitable contamination monitoring systems and to have emergency plans in place to identify and properly dispose of any food items unsuitable for consumption.

 Mérieux NutriSciences can support agri-food companies by offering accredited analysis of dioxins (PCDD / PCDF) and PCBs in food and feed matrices in full compliance with Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 and Directive 2002/32/EC.Our laboratories offer full analytical packages and apply the official EPA methods, expressing the analytical results in TCDD toxicity factors with the appropriate toxicological-analytical conversion factors. Click here to learn more.

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