Food can become contaminated during production, or substances from the environment may enter seafood before it is even caught or harvested. The presence of contaminants in food is controlled by legislation in order to protect consumers.
The main legislation is European Commission Regulation 1881/2006, enforced in the UK by The Contaminants in Food (England) Regulations 2013 and similar regulations in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
These regulations contain the maximum allowable levels of certain named contaminants in food. Regulation 853/2004 deals with marine biotoxins and histamine. Maximum levels of contaminants permitted in seafood and additional information are available on the following pages:
- Dioxins and PCBs
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- Brominated flame retardants
- Melamine and structural analogues
- Marine biotoxins
Where no specific maximum level has been established, business operators have the responsibility to take the appropriate measures to protect public health. The provision for this in European law is Article 2 of Regulation 315/93: Food containing a contaminant in an amount which is unacceptable from the public health viewpoint and in particular at a toxicological level shall not be placed on the market. This is in addition to the general food law requirement of Article 14 of Regulation 178/2002, which states: Food shall not be placed on the market if it is unsafe. The equivalent in UK law is Section 8 of the Food Safety Act 1990, which bans the sale of contaminated food.
- Microplastics: Seafish produced an information sheet on microplastics in 2016 entitled Sources, fate, effects and consequences for the Seafood Industry of microplastics in the marine environment and also an update in 2018.