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European Legislation related to Speciation

EU legislationEuropean legislation concerning food safety, environment and occupational health is mostly based on total element concentrations, frequently expressed as maximum limits or guideline levels. Only a few regulations refer to molecular species. Most often, only specific contaminants "and their compounds" are mentioned, leaving a lot room for interpretation.


A series of principles and priorities regarding the environmental protection have been set out within the first five-year environmental action programme (1973-1977) adopted by the European Community; these principles are summarised below and remained valid in subsequent action programmes:
  • Prevention is better than cure.
  • Environmental impacts should be taken into account at the earliest possible stage in decision-making.
  • Exploitation of nature which causes significant damage to the ecological balance must be avoided.
  • Scientific knowledge should be improved to enable actions to be taken.
  • The cost of preventing and repairing environmental damage should be borne by the polluter.
  • Activities in one member state should not cause deterioration of the environment in another.
  • Environmental policy in the member states must take into account the interests of the developing countries.
  • The EC and member states of the European Union should promote international and worldwide environmental protection through international organisations.
  • Environmental protection is everyone's responsibility, therefore education is necessary.
  • Environmental protection measures should be taken at the most "appropriate level", taking into account the type of pollution, the action needed, and the geographical zone to be protected. This is known as the "subsidiarity principle".
  • National environmental programmes should be coordinated on the basis of a common long-term concept and national policies should be harmonised within the Community, not in isolation.
By looking in detail on existing rules refering to element species, the following examples can be cited:

Food and feedstuffs

Recently (June 2015), the EU commission implemented maximum limits for inorganic arsenic in rice comparable with the Codex values, but with separate ML for milled rice and husked rice. The European Commission has also proposed a lower level for arsenic in rice destined for production of food for infants and young children (see Commission Regulation 2015/1006 of 25 June 2015 amending Regulation EC 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of inorganic aesewnic in  foodstuffs (see Table below).

Table EU ML for iAs in rice products as amendment to Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006
ML (mg kg-1)
Non-parboiled milled rice (polished or white rice)
Parboiled rice and husked rice
Rice waffles, rice wafers, rice cracker and rice cakes
Rice destined for the production of food for infants
and young children


Related EVISA News
March 12, 2014: EU’s proposal to restrict Cr (VI) in leather in final stages
November 16, 2013: EFSA publishes dietary reference value for manganese
October 12, 2013: Minamata Convention is adopted
July 14, 2013: EU approves new selenium compound for use as a nutritional supplement in animals
February 4, 2013: ECHA requests comments on expanding REACH restriction on the use of cadmium in plastics
December 24, 2012: Mercury in food – EFSA updates advice on risks for public health
September 27, 2012: EU publishes new ban on phenylmercury
May 23, 2012: EFSA calls for scientific data on chromium speciation and nickel levels in food and drinking water
June 19, 2011: Committee for Socio-economic Analysis agrees on two draft opinions on restriction proposals for mercury compounds under REACH
June 7, 2011: European Commission announces ban on cadmium in plastics
December 1, 2010: ECHA reports the final REACH registration numbers - Nearly 25,000 dossiers
November 14, 2010: Registrations pick up as REACH deadline looms
September 25, 2010: The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) calls for comments on reports proposing restrictions on mercury and phenylmercury
March 10: 2010: ECHA suggests further chemicals for SVHC list
November 13, 2008: REACH pre-registration deadline expires soon
September 18, 2008: REACH Update: List of 300 chemicals of very high concern
June 3, 2008: European Chemicals Agency opens in Helsinki
June 1, 2007: REACH enters into force
October 10, 2006: Parties unite on EU chemicals safety law (REACH)
December 14, 2005: REACH: A further step towards final approval
July 1, 2005: European chemicals legislation REACH must be consumer-friendly
January 13, 2005: Poor implementation of EU environmental law

 The Role of Speciation in Legislation

last time modified: June 15, 2020


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