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EU Announces Cadmium Limits for Additional Foods

The European Commission (EC) has issued a regulation establishing maximum levels of cadmium in chocolate products and infant foods and adjusting maximum levels for other food products. Commission Regulation (EU) No 488/2014 amends Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006, which sets maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. The new levels are in response to a 2009 report by the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which concluded that the mean exposure for adults across Europe is close to, or slightly exceeding, the tolerable weekly intake (TWI) for cadmium of 2.5 micrograms/kg of body weight.

The CONTAM report on cadmium indicates that the highest concentrations of cadmium in foods are found in chocolate, seaweed, fish and seafood, and foods for special dietary uses. The report also estimates that the mean dietary exposure to cadmium across European countries is 2.3 micrograms/kg of body weight, and that certain subgroups such as children may exceed the TWI by about 2-fold.

The regulations provide time for Member States and food business operators to adapt to the limits by setting January 1, 2019 as the effective date for complying with the new maximum levels for cadmium in chocolate, which range from 0.10 micrograms for milk chocolate with less than 30% total dry cocoa solids to 0.60 micrograms for cocoa powder sold directly to consumers or used as an ingredient in sweetened cocoa powder (drinking chocolate). New cadmium limits for infant formula range from 0.005 micrograms for liquid formula manufactured from cows' milk proteins or protein hydrolysates to 0.020 micrograms for powdered formula manufactured from soya protein isolates. Processed cereal-based food for infants and young children will have a maximum level of 0.040 micrograms. The limits on cadmium in infant formulas and cereal become effective sooner – on January 1, 2015.

The regulation also adjusts maximum levels for cadmium in certain fish species. For example, tuna, anchovy, and swordfish maximums were reduced based on new occurrence data showing that a lower level is achievable. Maximum levels for sardines and bichique were raised since existing maximum levels are difficult to achieve and consumption of both species is low and, therefore, have a negligible effect on human exposure.

The EC has asked Member States to collect occurrence data on cadmium levels in foods, which the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will compile into a database (see Commission Recommendation 2014/193/EU).