Research report

Review of Priority Chemical Contaminant Risks, Food Production and Consumer Diets in Scotland

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Summary

This project involved a review of scientific and grey literature to assess the key chemical contaminants risks which have the potential to impact on the Scottish food chain and makes recommendations on future work needed to address evidence gaps. It focussed on contaminants that can impact on foods that are most commonly consumed by the Scottish population, in addition to those that may be of particular relevance to economically important food industries in Scotland, such as those related to fish production, Scotch whisky and certain cereal crops.

Chemical contamination can occur at any stage in the food chain, as a result of farming methods and practices, due to environmental contamination, or during transport, storage or processing. There are also many different types of chemical contaminant: naturally produced contaminants e.g. mycotoxins; organic compounds e.g. dioxins, PCBs; inorganic compounds e.g. lead, nitrates; plant toxins e.g. pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and process contaminants e.g. acrylamide.

The mechanisms whereby contaminants can enter the food chain and the pathways they may follow are complex. Exposure to chemical contaminants in food potentially poses a significant risk to human health which can be wide ranging, acute or chronic depending on the nature of the chemical and the overall exposure to it.

The review found that there were no aspects of the Scottish diet nor contaminants which were of particular concern for Scotland. FSS funding of Local Authority sampling grants should continue and include emerging contaminants and the FSS contaminants programme should be kept under review, taking account of Commission Recommendations and other sources. Laboratory capability and capacity is a key element of food safety; and technical knowledge and analytical capacity must be kept fit-for-purpose. FSS should also maintain awareness of EFSA activities and continue intelligence gathering on chemical contaminants.

These findings will allow Food Standards Scotland to refine the chemical contaminants component of its Strategy for Reducing Foodborne Illness in Scotland and allow more efficient targeting of our chemical contaminants research and messaging to protect consumers in Scotland.

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