EFSA backs current EU iodine assessment

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ruled this month that the
tolerable upper intake level (UL) of iodine in seaweed, set in
2002, is sufficiently recent to be applicable.

The judgment comes after EFSA was asked to provide a scientific opinion at a European level on the risks to human health related to the presence of significant levels of iodine in seaweed.

The Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food chain (CONTAM) discussed this request at its 18th plenary meeting, and noted that a scientific opinion at the European level already exists.

This decision, which was taken in 2002, was considered to be sufficient.

Iodine is an essential trace element. The iodine content of foods differs depending on various factors such as geochemical conditions, and the intake of iodine by individual consumers in human populations generally corresponds to the amount entering the local or national food chain.

In some geographical regions for example, iodine intake may be very low and can result in iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). More than 50 countries around the world are still iodine-deficient, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In these regions sudden increased iodine intake can be undesirable, a balanced intake would be, however, favourable to compensate for deficiencies.

Within Europe, all scenarios ranging from too low to rather high dietary exposure to iodine can occur.

The UL for iodine applies to all sources of iodine including seaweed. It is also mentioned in the risk characterisation part of the opinion "can result in dangerously excessive iodine intakes"​.

The opinion clearly describes the hazards associated with high intakes of iodine, both acute, subacute and chronic intakes, and also subpopulations at risk such as pregnant women.

EFSA's CONTAM Panel, which reviewed the issue, is of the opinion that the exposure assessment of seaweed, as a source for significant levels of iodine, and possible recommendations for the consumption of seaweed has to be conducted at the national (or even at the regional) level.

Related topics: Science, Food labelling

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