Food safety, EU Commission adopts rules to lower arsenic levels in food

03 March 2023

The European Commission adopted new rules to lower the presence of arsenic in food products. Lower maximum levels (MLs) are being adopted as an important measure to achieve the objectives of of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan which aims to limit or eliminate carcinogenic risk from chemicals in food. This decision, based on a 2021 scientific report from EFSA, following a call for Member States to monitor the presence of arsenic in foods.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, stated that this measure would reduce the exposure risk of a carcinogenic contaminant in the food chain and ensure that EU food safety standards remain the highest in the world.

The new regulations will reduce the allowed concentration of inorganic arsenic in white rice and set new limits for arsenic in everyday rice-based food items, infant formula, baby foods, fruit juices, and salt. The previous maximum levels for arsenic in food products were established in 2015 based on an EFSA opinion that stated that inorganic arsenic may cause cancer of the skin, bladder, and lungs.

Arsenic is present in rocks, soil, and natural ground water at low concentrations, with food and drinking water being the primary routes of human exposure. Industrial emissions such as mining and burning of fossil fuels, as well as the use of fertilisers, wood preservatives, insecticides or herbicides containing the contaminant can contribute to higher levels of arsenic in the environment.

SAFE welcomes any measure that avoids or reduces the exposure of European consumers to harmful substances in food.