Last updated on 26 October 2005
Survey of arsenic in fish and shellfish
Food Survey Information Sheet 82/05
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has completed a survey of total and inorganic arsenic in fish and shellfish. Total and inorganic arsenic were measured in bulk (composite) samples of 42 species of fish and 8 species of shellfish, as well as in 75 individual samples of shellfish. Arsenic is present in food in various chemical forms, with inorganic forms being the most toxic. Most arsenic in the diet is present in the less harmful organic forms.
In the UK, fish is the main contributor of arsenic in the diet. The aim of this survey was to provide data on fish and shellfish on which we previously had limited or no information, and to allow a more accurate and detailed estimate of dietary intakes of arsenic by consumers of these products.
Total and inorganic arsenic was measured in 42 composite samples of fish, 8 samples of bulk shellfish and 75 samples of individual shellfish.
Levels of total arsenic in all samples of fish and shellfish were comparable with the literature where available, with higher levels found in the composite samples of skate and lemon sole. There is no regulatory limit for total arsenic in fish and shellfish, as the arsenic is predominantly in a less toxic (organic) form.
The levels of inorganic arsenic were generally higher in shellfish samples but the percentage of inorganic arsenic was low in all samples. People's maximum intake of inorganic arsenic was below 5 per cent of the safety guideline set previously by the World Health Organization, although this guideline is due to be reviewed.