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The European Food Safety Authority has published a new report on levels of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in food and feed. It shows that dioxin levels in food and feed are continuing to gradually drop, likely due to the spread and enforcement of stricter food standards and air emission controls.

Dioxins belong to the persistent organic chemicals (“dirty dozen”) the production and use of which was banned by the Stockholm Convention in 2001. Dioxins and PCBs are persistent environmental pollutants which can accumulate in the food chain. These toxic substances have adverse effects on human health, especially developmental effects, and may cause cancer. Animal products in the diet are the largest source of dioxins for most people, and the body burden of dioxins increases as people age.

The new report shows a general decrease in dietary exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in Europe, comparing 2008-2010 with 2002-2004, of at least 16 % and up to 79 % for the general population, with a similar decrease for toddlers and other children. Exposure to non-dioxin-like PCBs, a sub-set of PCBs with different toxicological properties, also decreased.

The report contains one discouraging note: dioxin levels are higher in wild fish than in farmed fish, and higher in free range eggs than in battery eggs.

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