EUROPE – According to a recent draft opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), food contaminated with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) presents a health risk to individuals of all age groups.

PBDEs are a type of brominated flame retardant (BFR) widely used in various products to reduce flammability.

The draft opinion indicates that these human-made chemicals, which can leach into the environment, including food and feed, can have adverse effects on the reproductive and nervous systems based on research in experimental animals.

PBDEs primarily contaminate animal-based food such as fish, meat, and milk. In light of these findings, EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) recommends the continued monitoring of PBDE presence in food.

Furthermore, experts call for additional data regarding the occurrence of PBDEs in infant formula and the transfer of these substances from mother to infant during pregnancy and lactation.

This latest draft opinion by EFSA builds upon a previous assessment conducted in 2011, which focused on individual PBDEs and raised health concerns solely for young people.

The current opinion incorporates new scientific evidence since 2011 and assesses the risks associated with combined exposure to frequently detected PBDEs.

The present scientific opinion is part of a series of six opinions addressing the risks posed by brominated flame retardants (BFRs).

In 2021, EFSA published the first opinion, which updated the risk assessment of hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs) in food.

These assessments reflect the continuous efforts to evaluate the potential health risks associated with BFRs.

Regulatory actions and concerns

While certain BFRs are already banned or restricted for use within the European Union (EU), concerns persist due to their persistence in the environment.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has recently released its Regulatory Strategy for Flame Retardants, identifying aromatic brominated flame retardants as candidates for potential EU-wide restriction.

This measure aims to minimize human exposure to this class of compounds and further safeguard public health.

To ensure a comprehensive evaluation, EFSA has opened a public consultation period for the draft scientific opinion, providing interested stakeholders with an opportunity to contribute their comments.

The consultation will run for six weeks, and stakeholders are invited to submit their feedback by July 20, 2023.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.