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Food Contaminants

Any food containing a contaminant in an amount which is unacceptable from a public health viewpoint and in particular, at a toxicologically significant level must not be placed on the market. Furthermore, contaminant levels must be kept as low as can be reasonably achieved by following good agricultural, fishery and manufacturing practices. The general European Union (EU) procedures for contaminants in food are set down in Council Regulation No. 315/93/EEC.

A 'contaminant' for the purposes of Regulation (EEC) No. 315/93 is defined as: 'any substance not intentionally added to food which is present in such food as a result of the production (including operations carried out in crop husbandry, animal husbandry and veterinary medicine), manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packing, packaging, transport or holding of such food or as a result of environmental contamination'. To protect public health, Regulation (EEC) No. 315/93 provides that maximum levels be set for certain contaminants as part of a non-exhaustive EU list. This list is set out in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 .

EU Legislation

Council Regulation (EEC) No 315/93 (OJ L37, p1 13/02/1993) of 8 February 1993 laying down Community procedures for contaminants in food

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 (OJ L364, p5, 20/12/2006 ) of 19 December 2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs

Amended by

  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 1126/2007 (OJ L255, p14, 29/09/2007 ) of 28 September 2007 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs as regards Fusarium toxins in maize and maize products
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 565/2008 (OJ L160, p20, 19/06/2008 ) of 18 June 2008 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs as regards the establishment of a maximum level for dioxins and PCBs in fish liver
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 629/2008 (OJ L173, p6, 03/07/2008 ) of 2 July 2008 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 105/2010  (OJ L35, p7, 06/02/2010) of 5 February 2010 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs as regards ochratoxin A
  •  Commission Regulation (EU) No 165/2010  (OJ L50, p8, 27/02/2010) of 26 February 2010 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs as regards aflatoxins
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 420/2011 (OJ L111, p3, 30/04/2011) of 29 April 2011 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs
  •  Commission Regulation (EU) No 835/2011 (OJ L215, p4, 20/08/2011) of 19 August 2011 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in foodstuffs
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 1258/2011(OJ L320, p15, 03/12/2011) of 2 December 2011 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels for nitrates in foodstuffs
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 1259/2011 (OJ L320, p18, 03/12/2011) of 2 December 2012 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels for dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non dioxin-like PCBs in foodstuffs
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 219/2012 (OJ L75, p5, 15/03/2012) of 14 March 2012 correcting the Romanian version of Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 594/2012(OJ L176, p43, 06/07/2012) of 5 July 2012 amending Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 as regards the maximum levels of the contaminants ochratoxin A, non dioxin-like PCBs and melamine in foodstuffs
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 1058/2012 (OJ L313, p14, 13/11/12) of 12 November 2012 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels for aflatoxins in dried figs
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 1067/2013 (OJ L289, p56, 31/10/2013) of 30 October 2013 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of the contaminants dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs in liver of terrestrial animals
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 212/2014 (OJ L67, p3, 07/03/2014) of 6 March 2014 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of the contaminant citrinin in food supplements based on rice fermented with red yeast Monascus purpureus
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 488/2014 (OJ L138, 75, 13/05/2014) of 12 May 2014 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of cadmium in foodstuffs 
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 696/2014 (OJ L184, p1, 25/06/2014) of 24 June 2014 as regards maximum levels of erucic acid in vegetable oils and fats and foods containing vegetable oils and fats
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 1327/2014 (OJ L358, p13, 13/12/2014) of 12 December 2014as regards maximum levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in traditionally smoked meat and meat products and traditionally smoked fish and fishery products
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/704 (OJ L113, p27, 01/05/2015) of 30 April 2015 as regards the maximum level of non-dioxin-like PCBs in wild caught spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/1005 (OJ L 161,p9, 26.6.2015)of 25 June 2015 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of lead in certain foodstuffs 
  •  Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/1006 (OJ L 161,p14,26.6.2015) of 25 June 2015 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of inorganic arsenic in foodstuffs
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/1125 (OJ L184, p7, 11/07/2015) of 10 July 2015 regards maximum levels for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Katsuobushi (dried bonito) and certain smoked Baltic herring
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/1137 (OJ L185, p11, 14/07/2015) of 13 July 2015 as regards the maximum level of Ochratoxin A in Capsicum spp. spices
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/1933 (OJ L282, p11, 28.10.2015) of 27 October 2015 as regards maximum levels for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in cocoa fibre, banana chips, food supplements, dried herbs and dried spices
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/1940 (OJ L 283,p3, 29.10.2015)of 28 October 2015 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of ergot sclerotia in certain unprocessed cereals and the provisions on monitoring and reporting 
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/239 (OJ L45, p3, 20.02.2016) of 19 February 2016 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of tropane alkaloids in certain cereal-based foods for infants and young children
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/1237 (OJ L 177,p36, 8.7.2017)of 7 July 2017 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards a maximum level of hydrocyanic acid in unprocessed whole, ground, milled, cracked, chopped apricot kernels placed on the market for the final consumer
  • Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/290 (OJ L55,p27, 27/02/2018) of 26 February 2018 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of glycidyl fatty acid esters in vegetable oils and fats, infant formula, follow-on formula and foods for special medical purposes intended for infants and young children

Consolidated version of  Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006  (up to 19th March 2018 )

National Legislation

European Communities (Certain Contaminants in Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010  ( S.I. No. 218 of 2010 )

Amended by:

  • European Communities(Certain Contaminants in Foodstuffs) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (SI 276 of 2012)
  • European Communities(Certain Contaminants in Foodstuffs) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 348 of 2012)
  • European Communities (Certain Contaminants in Foodstuffs) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 380 of 2013)
  • European Communities(Certain Contaminants in Foodstuffs) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No 143 of 2014)
  • European Communities (Certain Contaminants in Foodstuffs) (Amendment) Regulation 2016 (S.I. No 329 of 2016)
  • European Communities (Certain Contaminants in Foodstuffs)(Amendment) Regulations 2017 (S.I. No. 377 of 2017)


The Annex to  Regulation (EC) 1881/2006  lists maximum levels for the following contaminants:

Section 1: Nitrate
Section 2: Mycotoxins

  • Aflatoxins
  • Ochratoxin A
  • Patulin
  • Deoxynivalenol
  • Zearalenone
  • Fumonisins
  • T-2 and HT-2 toxin
  • Citrinin
  • Ergot sclerotia and ergot alkaloids

Section 3: Metals

  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Mercury
  • Tin (inorganic)
  • Arsenic (inorganic)

Section 4: 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol (3-MCPD) and glycidyl fatty acid esters

  • 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD)
  • Glycidyl fatty acid esters expressed as glycidol

Section 5: Dioxins and PCBs

Section 6: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Section 7: Melamine and its structural analogues
 
Section 8: Inherent plant toxins

  • Erucic acid
  •  Tropane alkaloids
      

 

Last reviewed: 14/12/2018

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