Scientific Opinion on Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs) in Food


Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
EFSA Journal
EFSA Journal 2010; 8(10):1789 [151 pp.].
Panel Members
Jan Alexander, Diane Benford, Alan Raymond Boobis, Sandra Ceccatelli, Jean-Pierre Cravedi, Alessandro Di Domenico, Daniel Doerge, Eugenia Dogliotti, Lutz Edler, Peter Farmer, Metka Filipič, Johanna Fink-Gremmels, Peter Fürst, Thierry Guérin, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Miroslav Machala, Antonio Mutti, Josef Rudolf Schlatter and Rolaf van Leeuwen

The Panel wishes to thank the members of the Working Group on Brominated Flame Retardants in Food: Åke Bergman, Alan Raymond Boobis, Sandra Ceccatelli, Jean-Pierre Cravedi, Metka Filipič, Peter Fürst, Niklas Johansson, Helle Knutsen, Miroslav Machala, Franco Merletti, Olaf Päpke, Dieter Schrenk, Rolaf Van Leeuwen, Stefan Van Leeuwen and Marco Zeilmaker for the preparatory work on this scientific opinion, and EFSA staff: Luisa Ramos Bordajandi and Elena Scaravelli for the support provided to this scientific opinion.

Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel
On request from
European Commission
Question Number
22. September 2010
Published in the EFSA Journal
13. Oktober 2010
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy

EFSA was asked by the European Commission to deliver a scientific opinion on polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) in food. PBBs are additive flame retardants which were applied in synthetic fibres and polymers. PBBs are present in the environment at low concentrations and likewise in biota and in food and feed. Data from the analysis of 16 PBB congeners in 794 food samples were provided to EFSA by 6 Member States, covering the period from 2003 to 2009. Toxicity studies were carried out with technical PBB mixtures of which the exact congener composition is not known. Main targets were the liver, thyroid hormone homeostasis and the reproductive, nervous and immune systems. PBBs are not directly genotoxic. The Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) selected the hepatic carcinogenic effects as the critical effect, with a no-observed-effect level (NOEL) of 0.15 mg/kg body weight (b.w.). Since this NOEL was obtained in a study with a technical PBB mixture, the congener profile of which differs from that currently found in food, the CONTAM Panel concluded that it was inappropriate to use this NOEL to derive a health based guidance value. The intake of PBBs by high and frequent consumers of fatty fish, the subgroup with the highest dietary exposure, was approximately 6 orders of magnitude less than this NOEL. Exposure for high consuming breast-fed infants is 5 orders of magnitude less than this NOEL. Therefore the CONTAM Panel concluded that the risk to the European population from exposure to PBBs through the diet is of no concern. Since PBBs are no longer produced or used in Europe and taking into account low and declining environmental concentrations, the CONTAM Panel concluded that PBBs are a low priority for further research or monitoring efforts.

Polybrominated biphenyls, PBBs, risk assessment, food, toxicity, exposure, occurrence, brominated flame retardants
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