EFSA launches public consultation on toxic food contaminants PBDEs

19 June 2023

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched a public consultation on health risks associated with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in food.

According to the draft scientific opinion published by EFSA, foods contaminated with PBDEs pose a health risk to all age groups. In particular, these substances may have detrimental effects on the reproductive and nervous systems.

PBDEs are a class of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), man-made chemicals widely used in products like plastics, textiles, and electronic equipments to reduce their flammability. These substances can permeate the air, water, soil, food, and animal feed. PBDEs are mainly found in animal-based food (fish, meat, milk.

EFSA had already performed an assessment on PBDEs in 2011, when it identified health concerns for young people only. This latest draft opinion takes into account new scientific evidence that has become available since 2011 and assesses the risks associated with the combined exposure to some of the most frequently detected PBDEs. This is the second scientific opinion in a series of six opinions on the risks posed by BFRs (the first, published in 2021, updated the risk assessment of hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs) in food).

Efforts are being made within the European Union to reduce risks from the use of BFRs, with bans and restrictions set on certain BFRs. Yet, their persistence in the environment poses important concerns about the risks these chemicals may pose to public health.