Levels of dioxins and dioxin-like environmental pollutants PCBs in food have fallen by around 50 per cent in the UK over three years, according to a recent study from food safety agency, the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The study, which analysed samples from each food group and from 24 different UK locations, showed that the total amount of dioxins in the diet has fallen by around 50 per cent for all age groups since the last survey in 1997.
Exposure to dioxins in food has fallen by around 85 per cent over the last 20 years and continues to fall steadily.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBa) tend to accumulate particularly in foods containing fat, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs. Any potential health risks will only come from long term exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs at the highest levels found in foods.
The 2001 total diet survey shows that average adult intakes of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs are well within the new UK safety limit or Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 2pg WHO-TEQ/kg bw/day (1), having fallen to 0.9pg WHO-TEQ/kg bw/day in 2001 from 1.8pg WHO-TEQ/kg bw/day in 1997. Average intakes by children have also fallen considerably, to 0.7 - 2.2pg WHO-TEQ/kg bw/day in 2001 from 1.6 - 5.1pg WHO-TEQ/kg bw/day in 1997.
Only 1 per cent of adults are now estimated to exceed the TDI for dioxins from the average diet, falling from 35 per cent in 1997. The percentage of schoolchildren likely to exceed the TDI for dioxins from an average diet has also fallen considerably - from 62 per cent in 1997 to 10 per cent in 2001. The percentage of toddlers likely to exceed the TDI for dioxins is now 37 per cent, falling from 97 per cent in 1997.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - extremely toxic - are a family of 209 chemical compounds for which there are no known natural sources. Low levels of PCBs have been shown to cause health problems in humans.