Following a meeting held in September between the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) with the European Commission, it has been decided to discontinue for the time being the review of the maximum levels (MLs) for mercury in fish.
Methylmercury is a potent toxin and is able to cross the placenta as well as the blood-brain and blood-cerebrospinal fluid barriers. Critical targets for toxicity includes the kidney, liver, nervous system, immune system, reproductive and developmental system. Fish is the main source of methylmercury exposure for humans of all ages in Europe. The mercury content in these commodities varies widely among different fish species, and is in general higher in predatory fish such as shark and swordfish. Currently, the maximum authorised level of mercury is set at one milligram per kilogram of fish and the Commission had planned on doubling this to two mg/kg.
The new decision:
According to Foodwatch, the Commission's reason for plans to raise the maximum mercury level was purely economic. The current mercury limit is surpassed by 50% of large predatory fish, that therefore cannot be brought to the market. Foodwatch had organized an online petition against such plans that was signed by more than 80,000 citizen of Germany and the Netherlands.
Photo: Swordfish is often highly contaminated with mercury above the current
maximum authorised level
As the report from the meeting clearly indicated, Member State welcomed that the maximum levels for mercury in shark and swordfish will remain at the existing level. The Commission also stressed the importance of consumption advice related to mercury in fish in order to fully achieve the beneficial effects of fish consumption, whilst limiting the risk of mercury toxicity.
EUR-Lex: Provisions for methods of sampling and analysis for the official control
of lead, cadmium, mercury, inorganic tin, 3-MCPD and benzo(a)pyrene in
foodstuffs are laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 333/2007
Related EVISA Resources
Link Database: Mercury exposure through the diet
Link Database: Environmental cycling of methylmercury
Link Database: Environmental cycling of inorganic mercury
Link Database: Environmental pollution of methylmercury
Link Database: Environmental pollution of inorganic mercury
Link Database: Toxicity of mercury
Brief summary: Chemical speciation analysis for nutrition and food science
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last time modified: November 27, 2023