The European Union believed that Norwegian fish contained ten times as much inorganic arsenic as they actually do.
The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, based its findings on data that indicate an expected level of inorganic arsenic in fish fillets of 0.03 mg per kg.
“Our data show that the content of inorganic arsenic is actually only one tenth as high, which means that the estimate EFSA used is too high, at least for Norwegian fish. Fish make only a marginal contribution to our total dietary intake of inorganic arsenic,” says NIFES Senior research scientist Kåre Julshamn.
Inorganic arsenic is toxic to humans and may be carcinogenic.
On behalf of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, NIFES examined the content of several contaminants, including inorganic arsenic, in Atlantic halibut, Greenland halibut, tusk, saithe, herring, mackerel and cod. The study will contribute to EU efforts to determine the limit of the tolerable weekly intake (PTWI). EFSA is now collecting data for a variety of contaminants in food, including inorganic arsenic. The European Union’s limits also apply to Norway.
“Our findings show that levels of inorganic arsenic in Norwegian fish fillet are low,” says Julshamn.
The report from NIFES also focused on brominated flame retardants and perfluorinated alkyl compounds. There are currently no upper limits in the EU for these groups of substances, partly due to a lack of sufficient data available. Overall, the analyses revealed low concentrations of the substances in the species examined.
Samples of Atlantic halibut were also analysed for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, PCB7 and metals, including methylmercury. Analyses for contaminants for which upper limits are in force showed that the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs exceeded the limit in two out of 20 samples of Atlantic halibut. The samples were taken from the belly of fish that weighed more than 50 kg. The halibut belly is high in fat, in which these substances accumulate. The levels were slightly lower than in previous years. No samples taken from the back of the fish showed values above the upper limits.