Protecting public health: Europe sets new maximum levels of cadmium and lead in food

26 Aug 2021

Despite already having a maximum threshold limiting the levels of both cadmium and lead in food products, the European Commission is further reducing that threshold. Beginning on August 31, stricter limits for cadmium will be enforced while those for lead will be introduced on August 30.

These heightened regulations will apply to baby formula and food, vegetables, fruit, cereals, meat, fish and other produce, all of which will need to be screened for these two heavy metals before they are released on the market.

Protecting public health: Europe sets new maximum levels of cadmium and lead in food

The ruling from the European Commission was made in an effort to help reduce exposure to carcinogenic substances and combat cancer, according to a statement from the governing body. “We know that an unhealthy diet increases the risk of cancer. Today’s decision aims to put consumers at the forefront by making our food safer and healthier, as we pledged in the framework of the European plan to fight cancer,” said Stella Kyriakides, the governing body’s health and food safety commissioner.

Cadmium is a metal that occurs naturally, but when consumed by humans is primarily toxic to the kidneys and may cause renal failure. For non-smokers, the primary way in which this substance is ingested is through foodstuffs such as fruits, vegetables, cereals and oilseeds. Due to the sources of this particular substance, vegetarians have a higher risk of exposure to excessive cadmium consumption due to a diet based on cereals, nuts and pulses.

Lead too is a heavy metal that is found in food such as wild mushrooms, spices and salt. This toxic metal has been shown to cause developmental neurotoxicity in young children and cardiovascular issues in adults, according to a EFSA opinion that was supported by a joint report from the FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants.

Products released onto the market prior to the implementation of this legislation that contain concentrations of these heavy metals that surpass the new limits are permitted to be sold until the end of February 2022.

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