Dioxins, furans and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of toxic and persistent chemicals whose effects on human health and on the environment include dermal toxicity, immunotoxicity, reproductive effects and teratogenicity, endocrine disrupting effects and carcinogenicity. The environment of these substances coupled with several accidents (Yusho (Japan), Yucheng (Taiwan), Seveso (Italy) have triggered a deep concern from the international community for their reduction and control. Moreover, there is considerable public, scientific and regulatory concern over the negative effects on human health and on the environment of long-term exposure to even the smallest amounts of dioxins and PCBs.
Analytical chemistry is used to support collaborative studies of environmental pathways of toxic chemicals, fundamental aspects of toxicology and health and an emergency and contingency response. This work area covers research and surveillance to ensure the safety of food with respect to chemical contaminants including a range of regulated and near-regulated organic environmental contaminants such as PCDD/Fs (dioxins and furans), PCBs and emerging contaminants.
The EU-RL for Dioxins and PCBs in Food and Feed aims to facilitate the implementation of European legislation related to monitoring of Dioxins and PCBs in Food and Feed. Under Regulation (EC) No. 776/2006 the European Union Reference Laboratory (EU-RL) for Dioxins and PCBs in Food and Feed is hosted by State Institute for Chemical and Veterinary Analysis of Food - Freiburg, Germany (Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungs-amt, CVUA) which is one of the official food control and animal health laboratories in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.
Over the past two decades the Commission has proposed wide ranging legislation aimed at directly or indirectly reducing the release of these compounds into the environment, with the objective of reducing human exposure and protecting human health and the environment. Recent exposure data show that measures introduced to control dioxin releases have resulted in a substantial reduction in intake of these compounds: levels in humans are decreasing since the mid eighties. Since 1995 this tendency is levelling out, even slightly rising levels have been observed for some contaminants.
The Contaminants in Food (England) Regulations 2013 make enforcement measures provision for European Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006, setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs and prescribes the methods to be used for sampling and analysis for enforcement purposes. There are similar Regulations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Copies of the EU Regulations, and those of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are available from the Food Standards Agency.
Regulation (EC) No. 776/2006 nominates the State Institute for Chemical and Veterinary Analysis of Food - Freiburg, Germany as the European Union Reference Laboratory (EU-RL) for Dioxins and PCBs in Feed and Food
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is designated as Competent Authority for the purposes of Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 on Official Feed and Food Controls in the UK, for Fera Chemical Contaminants in Animal Feed NRL.
for importing food
Food which is intended for human consumption must meet the general food safety requirements of European Union (EU) law. Under Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 these requirements are that food must not be unsafe, i.e.:
DG Health and Consumers ensures that food and consumer goods sold in the EU are safe, that the EU's internal market works for the benefit of consumers and that Europe helps protect and improve its citizens' health. Work is in collaboration with other EU Institutions, national governments and agencies, consumer organisations, health interest groups, business groups, scientists, researchers and experts.
DG Health and Consumers Food Contaminants - Dioxins and PCBs has information summarising Dioxins and PCBs EU Legislation for food and feed.
Guidelines for the Enforcement of Provisions on Dioxins in the Event Non-Compliance with the Maximum Levels for Dioxins in Food have been produced by DG Health and Consumers (DG SANCO).