Irish diet shows signs of chemical exposure, warns FSAI

By Kizzi Nkwocha

- Last updated on GMT

Exposure to chemicals through food is an issue of worldwide concern, said the report by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. © iStock
Exposure to chemicals through food is an issue of worldwide concern, said the report by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. © iStock

Related tags Nutrition Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon

The typical diet in Ireland shows worrying signs that consumers could be at risk from exposure to chemicals such as lead, aflatoxins and acrylamide, according to a study by Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

The FSAI said the potential danger is part of a wider global issue identified by its 2014 Total Diet Study​.

The study measured the population’s exposure to particular chemicals by examining 147 foods and beverages which constituted the typical diet in Ireland.

It identified potential concern in relation to exposure to acrylamide (a chemical formed during the frying, roasting or baking of a variety of foods); aflatoxins (natural chemicals produced by certain fungi); and, to a lesser degree, lead.

Regarding aflatoxins, cereal-based products were the major source of exposure for both adults and children, while scientists have reported the existence of acrylamide in a variety of fried and baked foods, particularly in potato products such as chips

Global issue

The study noted that its findings in relation to exposure from these chemicals is part of a wider global issue.

The study said: “These findings are not specific to Ireland; rather, they are of concern worldwide.

“Continuous efforts are being made by risk managers nationally and internationally to reduce exposure to these substances to as low as reasonably achievable, bearing in mind that zero exposure is impossible. These measures include continuous review of legislation and applying best practices in agriculture and food manufacturing.”

Chemicals studied by FSAI included contaminant metals: aluminium, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and tin; essential nutrients: iodine and selenium; food additives: nitrates and nitrites; food contaminants: acrylamide, mycotoxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); pesticide residues; and bisphenol A and phthalates which are present in some food contact materials.

Ongoing safety

Commenting on the results, Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI stressed that continued and regular surveillance is essential to ensure the “ongoing safety of food eaten, produced, distributed and sold on the Irish market.”

Dr Byrne added:  “While the results of the study do not give rise to any immediate concerns, we have identified a number of potential areas for further monitoring and action.

“These risks are of a global nature and are being addressed through legislation and other targeted measures by the European Commission, working in conjunction with European food safety agencies, including the FSAI.”




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