EU amends maximum levels of inorganic arsenic in foodstuffs
SAFEGUARDS | Food NO. 120/15
On 25 June 2015, the European Union published Regulation (EU) 2015/1006 amending Annex to Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 regarding the maximum levels of inorganic arsenic in foodstuffs, especially rice and rice-based products. These products are important contributors to the inorganic arsenic exposure of infants and young children.
Inorganic arsenic is a form of arsenic that can occur in the environment. Inorganic forms of arsenic are more toxic than organic forms, which cause cancer.
Concerning the assessment of the risks to human health from inorganic arsenic exposure, the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) adopted an opinion on arsenic in food  on 12 October 2009. In this opinion, the CONTAM Panel concluded that the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) of 15 μg/kg body weight established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) is no longer appropriate. This is because data had shown that inorganic arsenic causes cancer of the lung and urinary bladder in addition to skin, and that a range of adverse effects had been reported at exposures lower than those reviewed by the JECFA.
The CONTAM Panel modelled the dose-response data from the key epidemiological studies and identified a range of benchmark dose lower confidence limit (BMDL01) values between 0.3 and 8 µg/kg body weight per day for cancers of the lung, skin and bladder, as well as skin lesions. Therefore, the CONTAM Panel identified the estimated dietary exposures to inorganic arsenic within the range of the BMDL10 for average and high consumers in Europe (including children under three) to be about 2 to 3-fold that of adults.
As rice is an important ingredient in a variety of food for infants and young children, the maximum levels of arsenic should be set for rice and rice based products in subsection 3.5 (Arsenic(inorganic), sum of As(III) and As(V)) of the annex to Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006  as follows:
- Non-parboiled milled rice (polished or white rice) 0.20 mg/kg
- Parboiled rice and husked rice 0.25 mg/kg
- Rice waffles, rice wafers, rice crackers and rice cakes 0.30 mg/kg
- Rice destined for the production of food for infants and young children 0.10 mg/kg
Member States and food business operators have time to adapt the new maximum levels of arsenic before the new rules relating to this regulation are applied from 1 January 2016.
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Reference: Regulation (EU) 2015/1006 
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