They will run in parallel to existing controls on dioxin levels in foodstuffs.

The new legislation looks at the combined total levels of dioxin-like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins themselves, rather than setting a limit for the PCBs alone.

Dioxins in meat, dairy produce and other animal-based foods have been restricted since July 2002.

The same wave of legislation also covered animal feed.

However, due to lack of sufficient data and scientific information at the time, no levels were set for dioxin-like PCBs.

Since 2002, new data on dioxin-like PCBs has become available, and the legislation means that from November 2006, any food or feed in which the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs exceeds these maximum levels will not be allowed to be marketed in the EU.

The reduction of persistent chemicals such as dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in the food chain is an important part of ensuring the health and safety of EU consumers.

A particularly nasty family of chemicals, even at low doses dioxins can provoke a wide spectrum of health problems, including cancer, immune and nervous system disorders, liver damage, sterility and endocrine disruption.

Once they enter the food chain they can remain in the environment, causing havoc for years.

PCBs have similar properties.

Markos Kyprianou, the EC’s commissioner for health and consumer protection, told the press: “In setting these maximum levels, the commission is taking another step forward in protecting the EU consumer from the harmful long-term effects of dioxin and dioxin-like PCB consumption.

“We will continue to pursue our comprehensive strategy against these noxious substances, continually reviewing the ways in which we can reduce human exposure to them.

“It is now up to national authorities to ensure that monitoring is properly carried out, so that citizens in all Member States can rely on the same level of protection against these contaminants.”

By Sam Bond

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