Current dioxin issue: consumers do not have to worry

31-Jan-2011 - Germany

BfR has assessed health risks on the basis of the measured content in eggs, pork meat, poultry meat and dairy products

The contamination of feeds with dioxins has considerably upset consumers. In the meantime the public authorities of the Federal Laender as well as members of the specialist organisations of the agricultural sector have analysed numerous samples of eggs, meat, dairy products and feedstuffs to determine their dioxin contents. Result: only in a few cases the measured content in eggs, meat of laying hens and pork meat are above the statutory maximum amounts. For dairy products and poultry meat no exceeding was determined. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has assessed the health risk for consumers on the basis of these data. "Even if eggs or pork meat with contents in the range of the highest measured values were consumed over a longer period of time during the past months, no health risk is to be expected", said BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel at a press conference on dioxin in foods during the Green Week in Berlin.

BfR based its first assessment on scenarios in which consumers would have consumed two eggs (of 60 grams) per day over a longer period of time. At the same time it was assumed that these foods had the highest measured contents of 12 picograms per gram fat at each meal. According to this worst case scenario, the body burden of a young adult would hardly increase in the course of a month from 10.0 picograms per gram body fat to 10.336 picograms per gram body fat.

Body burden is defined as the amount of dioxins a human has collected at the daily intake of dioxins due to the background exposure up to a certain point in time of his life and has in his body in the long-term.

Even in the theoretical case that somebody had consumed foods with the highest measured dioxin contents for a year, the body burden would only moderately increase. At the end of the year it would have risen after the consumption of a total of 730 eggs with the highest measured dioxin content by 4 picograms to a total of 14 picograms per gram body fat.

20 years ago young adults still had a body burden of 30 picograms dioxins per gram body fat. Even with these high values compared to the current levels, no health impairments were proven. Consequently, BfR reaches the conclusion that even for people who consumed recently a larger amount of eggs and egg products or pork meat with a dioxin contamination above the respective maximum amount no health impairment is to be expected, not even in the long-term.

Based on the current suspected samples of determined mean dioxin contents in foods, the tolerable daily intake (TDI: The amount of a substance which can be taken in per day during the entire life without a noticeable impact on the health of the consumer.) is exhausted by the intake of dioxins alone (WHO-PCDD/F-TEQ) from eggs by approximately 4%. This assumes a mean consumption based on the data of the National Consumption Study II. For pork meat the TDI is exhausted by approximately 1% in this case. Consumers with a high egg and pork meat consumption would exhaust approximately 10% of the TDI with eggs and 2% with pork meat.

For substances like dioxins it is not the daily intake dose but the amount in the body, i.e. the body burden, which is decisive for the health impact. Dioxins accumulate in the body and every human takes traces of dioxins in through different foods every day because of the existing background exposure. Consequently, it has to be ensured that a body burden which would be critical in terms of health is not reached at a higher  age either. The intake of dioxins through foods must, therefore, be minimised as far as possible. For this reason BfR believes that the exceeding of the statutory maximum amounts in foods and feeds is not acceptable.

Other news from the department science

Most read news

More news from our other portals

Fighting cancer: latest developments and advances