Dioxins and PCBs

Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are contaminants that may be found in some species of seafood.

Current requirements state that seafood should comply with three separate maximum levels, which are:

  • The sum of polychlorinated dibenzo-para-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), expressed in World Health Organisation (WHO) toxic equivalents using the WHO-TEFs (toxic equivalency factors, 2005).
  • The sum of dioxins, furans and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), defined as the sum of PCDDs, PCDFs and PCBs, expressed in the  WHO-TEFs.
  • The sum of the 6 PCB congeners listed in the fourth column below.
Seafood Maximum permitted level: sum of dioxins (WHO-PCDD/F-TEQ) Sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs (WHO-PCDD/F-PCB-TEQ) Sum of PCB28, PCB52, PCB101, PCB 138, PCB153 and PCB180.

Muscle meat of fish and fishery products and products thereof: with the exception of:

  • Wild caught eel
  • Wild caught spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
  • Wild caught fresh water fish excluding diadromous fish species caught in fresh water
  • Fish liver and derived products
  • Marine oils

When fish are intended to be eaten whole, the maximum level applies to the whole fish.

The maximum level for crustaceans applies to muscle meat from appendages and abdomen. In the case of crabs and crab-like crustaceans (Brachyura and Anomura), it applies to muscle meat from appendages.

3.50 pg/g wet weight

6.50 pg/g wet weight

75 ng/g wet weight

Muscle meat of wild caught fresh water fish, with the exception of diadromous fish species caught in fresh water, and products thereof.

Where fish are intended to be eaten whole, the maximum level shall apply to the whole fish.

3.50 pg/g wet weight

6.50 pg/g wet weight

125 ng/g wet weight

Muscle meat of wild caught spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and products thereof

 

3.50 pg/g wet weight

 

6.50 pg/g wet weight

 

200 ng/g wet weight

Muscle meat of wild caught eel (Anguilla anguilla) and products thereof

3.50 pg/g wet weight

10 pg/g wet weight

300 ng/g wet weight

Fish liver and derived products thereof with the exception of marine oils referred to below. In the case of canned fish liver, the maximum applies to the whole of the edible content.

N/A

20 pg/g wet weight

200 ng/g wet weight

Marine oil (fish body oil, fish liver oil and oils of other marine organisms intended for human consumption).

1.75 pg/g fat

6.0 pg/g fat

200 ng/g fat

Derogations apply to some European member states for placing certain fishery products placed on their market. For more details see Regulation 1881/2006 as amended and with sampling and analysis methods outlined in Regulation 252/2012.

There is also an EU recommendation (2011/516/EU) on the reduction of the presence of dioxins, furans and PCBs in feed and food. It sets out action levels for certain food sources, including farmed fish, to encourage member states to proactively reduce dioxin levels. When these contaminants occur in wild caught fish, the reason is general environmental pollution rather than a point source; therefore, no action levels have been set for wild caught fish.