Last updated on 12 April 2012
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in cereals, vegetables and smoked foods
Food Survey Information Sheet 01/12
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were measured in a range of cereals, cereal products, vegetables, vegetable products and traditionally smoked foods. A total of 230 samples of the targeted foods were tested for 28 PAH compounds, including 16 prioritised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) as being toxicologically significant.
In general, the PAHs measured in this survey (including those known to be more harmful to health) were found at low levels.
As might be expected, higher concentrations of PAHs were generally found in traditionally smoked fish products, with 4 out of 73 samples exceeding the current limit for benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) in smoked fish.
Local enforcement authorities investigated the companies whose products were non-compliant and provided advice on the steps that the companies should take to reduce PAH levels to achieve compliance.
There are no regulatory limits for PAHs in cereals and vegetables. The FSA carried out a risk assessment for these food groups which showed that these food groups provide a minor contribution to exposure to four PAHs that provide an indicator of the presence of PAHs in food.
Based on the survey results, there is no need for consumers to change their eating habits.