RESEARCH – June 2005

PCDD/Fs and “dioxin-like PCBs” in Estonian food on the example of butter


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It may be useful to use butter as an indicator matrix for contamination with persistent organic pollutants. The main reason for analysing toxic compounds originating from our surroundings ( including food ) is the need to determine how dangerous they are to people and to their living environment. Persistent organic pollutants (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and “dioxin-like PCBs” are a group of toxic persistent chemicals whose effect on human health and on the environment include dermal toxicity, immunotoxicity, reproductive effects and teratogenicity, endocrine disrupting effects and carcinogenicity.

Eight countries (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia) sent two butter samples each between December 2002 and March 2003 to the Joint Research Centre of the European Union (EU) in Italy for analysis. The butter samples had been bought in ordinary stores. All samples were below the EU maximum tolerance level for PCDD/Fs (6). According to the author`s opinion, in case information about the content of PCDD/Fs and “dioxin-like PCBs” in Estonian butter is needed, experts should use the results of the analysis of the Estonian butter sample No.1. The Estonian butter sample No.2 does not characterize Estonian butter, as the contribution of dioxin-like PCB to total WHO-TEQ is particularly high, 86%, compared with butter samples from other states, for which the corresponding range is from 47 to 68% (6).

Council Regulation (EC) No. 2375/2001 sets a maximum level of 3 pg WHO-PCDD/F-TEQ for milk and milk products, including butter fat. As an important conclusion, all samples are below the EU maximum tolerance level for PCDD/Fs (6).