Exposure Assessment to Dioxins Using the Irish Adult Population as a Reference Population for Europe

In late December 2010 the first reports of dioxin contamination of German eggs surfaced. Since then, dioxin levels exceeding legal limits have also been found in poultry and pork. To estimate the severity of this contamination event, Creme has carried out exposure assessments using the Irish adult population consumption data and using different scenarios of contamination. The assessment results were also used to estimate exposures in other European countries.

A conservative exposure estimate was calculated for a ten month exposure period. This is because the first contaminated feed samples were detected as early as March 2010. Several contamination scenarios were examined: the first scenario assumed all consumed samples to have been contaminated with dioxins and the other scenarios assumed contamination levels of 20% and 10% respectively. Exposure was assessed assuming pork, poultry and egg were all contaminated. Contamination levels of two and five times the legal limit for pork, poultry and eggs were used for the contamination scenarios. The severity of exposure was expressed in percentage increase of body burden. This was calculated assuming a steady state body burden of 4000 pg/kg bw.

In the worst case scenario; after a ten month exposure period at five times the legal limit, estimated exposure led to an increase in body burden of 20.6% for the mean consumer and 43.4% for the P95 consumer. However, this is an unlikely scenario and the results of the more likely scenarios of consumption of 20% or 10% contaminated pork, poultry and egg all show a body burden increase below 10%. In the 20% contamination scenario, the highest body burden increase is 8.8% for the P95 consumer and 4.1% for the mean consumer.

These exposure estimates were based on limited data. Samples have been reported to contain two to five times the legal limit of dioxins, but how many of the samples are actually contaminated is unclear. It also remains unclear whether contamination occurred for the full ten month period between the first report of contaminated feed and now or not.

Because of the limited knowledge, exposure was estimated for several scenarios with different assumptions regarding contamination levels and percentages of samples contaminated. Even in the conservative estimate of ten months of exposure to contaminated products, the more likely scenarios where 20% or 10% of consumed products are contaminated, result in a body burden increase for the average and high consumer that remains well below 10%; an increase which EFSA considered of no concern for the Irish pork crisis in 2008.

To request a free copy of the full report including a range of contamination scenarios and European extrapolation of the data please contact us.

Written by Creme Global on January 13 2011

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