Doing our level best to keep calm over contaminants

Despite several scaremongering headlines to the contrary, results from the EFSA’s latest study into levels of acrylamide in a range of UK retail foods reveal ‘no increase in concern about the risk to human health’.

As with previous years, the survey results for acrylamide will be sent to EFSA for analysis and where an acrylamide level has exceeded an indicative value, the relevant local authority will explore what action may have already been taken to limit acrylamide formation, and see whether further action is possible.

However, it’s important to note that new legislation which recently came into force, and which requires all Food Business Operators to limit acrylamide formation as much as possible, sets only benchmark levels. They are not maximum levels and exceedance of the levels does not mean non-compliance with the legislation (that said, there is a push by some Member States to have maximum levels in individual food products, so watch this space).

But acrylamide is just one food contaminant currently being monitored. Chlorates and pyrrolizidine alkaloids (plant toxins), among others, are also very much on the regulatory radar right now, as the authorities seek to gather data on their prevalence in certain food and drink products.

That’s why it’s vital that industry does not bury its head in the sand. In fact, it should be tackling contaminants issues head-on, and doing its utmost to provide the necessary data to ensure that, when it comes to contaminants and the possible setting of limits, those limits are both realistic and achievable.

Failure to do so could ultimately lead to the disappearance of whole product ranges from supermarket shelves.

And that really would be hard to swallow.

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