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Dioxins

  Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) are chemicals that get into our food from the environment. They have no immediate effect on our health but can cause problems if they are absorbed into our bodies at high levels for long periods.

Foods high in animal fat, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs (and foods produced with them) are the main source of dioxins and PCBs although all foods contains at least low levels of these chemicals. The levels of dioxins and PCBs in any one individual's diet will vary depending on the amounts and types of foods they eat.

The risk to health comes from eating food with high levels of dioxins and PCBs over a long period. They have been shown to cause a wide range of effects in certain animals, including cancer and damage to the immune and reproductive systems, although it appears that people may be less sensitive.

  • Source of dioxins and PCBs

 Dioxins have never been produced intentionally. They may be formed as unwanted by-products in a variety of industrial and combustion processes, including household fires. Most industrial releases of dioxins are strictly controlled under pollution prevention and control regulations.

  Dioxins and PCBs from these sources may be released in small quantities into the air, water or land. Animals and fish then take them up from their food and any soil and sediment they take in while they are feeding. The chemicals are absorbed into their body fat, where they accumulate.

  • Limit for the amount of dioxins in food

  A tolerable daily intake (TDI) is the amount of a contaminant that experts recommend can on average be eaten every day over a whole lifetime without causing harm.