EUROPE – The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, responsible for proposing legislation, enforcing EU laws and directing the union’s administrative operations, is setting new maximum levels for cadmium and lead tolerable in a wide range of food products, to further reduce the presence of  carcinogenic contaminants in food and to make healthy food more accessible.

Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal present in the environment, both naturally and as a result of agricultural and industrial activities. The European Union (EU)highlights that the main source of cadmium exposure for non-smokers is food. As lead is also a naturally occurring contaminant in the environment, food is the main source of human exposure to lead. They are but not considered dangerous for human health when consumed below certain limits.

This desire stems from the commitments made within the framework of the European plan to fight cancer. These measures take effect as from August 30 for the maximum level of lead and from August 31 for that of cadmium.

“We know that an unhealthy diet increases the risk of cancer. Today’s decision aims to put consumers at the forefront by making our food safer and healthier, as we committed to under the European plan to fight cancer. It is also a further step in strengthening the European Union’s already high and world-class standards in the EU food chain and providing safer, healthier and more sustainable food to consumers. The maximum levels of cadmium, a carcinogenic environmental contaminant, potentially contained in foodstuffs such as fruits, vegetables, cereals and oilseeds, will be made lower for some of these foodstuffs,” said Stella Kyriakides, Health and Food Safety Commissioner.

In addition, the maximum levels of lead in foods intended for infants and young children, will be reduced. New maximum lead levels will also be established for several foodstuffs such as wild mushrooms, spices and salt.

She noted that this will enhance the safety of food sold and consumed in the EU and help withdraw food products with the highest cadmium concentrations from the market.

Food products that contain these metals in concentrations beyond these new limits, which entered the market before the implementation of the new rules, are permitted to be sold until the end of February 2022.

The decisions taken follow years of continuous work by the Commission, member states and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as well as consultations with food businesses.

In April 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) similarly unveiled an action plan “Close to Zero” to reduce heavy metals and other toxins in baby food.