Following the explosion at Chempark Leverkusen (Germany) and according to the State Environmental Agency, there is a possibility that PCB, dioxins and furan compounds have been generated and are spreading in the environment via the cloud of smoke. This could have an impact on the food industry as well, especially on the production of animal products.
What are dioxins, PCBs and furans?
Dioxins can be formed in the presence of chlorine and organic carbon during combustion processes. Temperature also plays an important role, which is why dioxins can also be released during wildfires or volcanic eruptions. They adhere to dust particles and thus enter the environment.
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) comprise a group of more than 200 substances, and these have a toxic effect. Some PCBs resemble dioxins in molecular structure and are therefore also called dioxin-like PCBs. PCBs are produced in industry and used, for example, for transformers and electrical capacitors. PCBs have been banned in many countries since 1989.
Furans are formed from carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fatty acids and ascorbic acids when exposed to heat. Accordingly, furans can be formed especially in roasted foods (e.g., toast or coffee).
Effects of dioxins, PCBs and furans on food
Due to the spread of the substances in the environment, they also reach agricultural areas and are absorbed here by farm animals via food (soil particles, feed). Dioxins and PCBs mainly settle in fatty tissue, which is why higher levels are found in animal foods in particular than in plant foods.
In 2018, EFSA established a Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) of two pictograms (2 x 10-12 grams) per kilogram of body weight. Since 2006, Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 has set maximum levels for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs for selected foodstuffs.
If the maximum levels set by law are exceeded, these food products may not be placed on the market and sold in order to protect public health.
Recommendation of our experts
Food and feed analysis experts recommend that manufacturers have their products tested for contamination with dioxins, PCBs and furans to ensure that they are selling safe products to their customers.
Tentamus Group laboratories can provide appropriate analysis and advise on possible action.
For more information, see the following blog articles:
Please feel free to contact us for further questions on the topic of dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs, food and feed. Our experts will be happy to advise you and provide you with an individual offer.
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