Report no: 2011: 15
Will the new limits in the EU for PAHs in mussels affect current consumption advisories in certain Norwegian harbours and fjords? The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food (VKM) answers this in a self-initiated assessment.
Mussels are filtering organisms living at the seabed and might thus accumulate environmental contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Several of the PAH compounds are regarded as potentially genotoxic and carcinogenic to humans.
Until recently BaP has been regarded as a good indicator for all PAHs in different food. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has issued consumption advisories for mussels in areas where the BaP content has been 5 nanogram per gram or above.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded in 2008 that the sum of four PAH compounds (PAH4) is a more suitable indicator to measure the carcinogenic PAHs in food than BaP alone. In the spring of 2011, EU therefore proposed to change the limits to a maximum of 30 nanograms per gram PAH4 in mussels.
In addition, the EU has proposed to reduce the maximum limit for BaP alone from 10 to 5 nanograms per gram.
VKMs assessment shows that the EU's new proposed limit for PAH4 can provide a slightly better protection for the population compared to the Norwegian action limit for consumption advisories for mussels (5 ng BaP per gram of shellfish), and clearly better protection than the current EU limit for BaP (10 ng BaP per gram of shellfish).
According to calculations made by VKM, the existing consumption advisories for mussels along the Norwegian coast do not need to be revised as a consequence of the proposed EU upper limit for PAH4 in bivalve molluscs (30 ng/g).
The assessment was publisehed June 29th 2011
This assessment is written in Norwegian. A summary with figures is available in English. Please see the section "Documents" above to download the pdf-file.