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EFSA delivers all-clear verdict on volcano food safety risks

By Guy Montague-Jones , 27-Apr-2010

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has judged the potential risk to food safety in the EU emerging from the volcanic eruption in Iceland as negligible.

At the start of last week, the European Commission began asking questions about how the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano would affect food safety and animal health.

In a letter to EFSA, it said questions could be raised about potential contamination of the food and feed chain, particularly given the significant levels of fluorine in the ash.

Fluoride focus

EFSA has now provided an assessment of the risks, paying particular attention to fluoride because of the short deadline and the fact that it has been identified previously in publications on volcanic eruptions as the most critical compound related to health effects in both humans and animals.

After considering the available information, EFSA said the potential risk from the ash-fall is negligible in the EU, which is outside the immediate proximity of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

It said: “Consequently, the risk for human and animal health due to this ash-fall is considered not to be of concern.”

Future assessment

However, EFSA did add that a lack of data on the ash-fallout and the composition of the ash made it difficult to make a precise assessment of the safety impact.

It therefore recommended that: “As further EU monitoring data becomes available for volcanic ash deposition levels and ash composition, risks associated with the components of the volcanic ash-fall should be re-evaluated, if the data indicates that toxicological thresholds have been exceeded.”

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