Scientific Opinion on Arsenic in Food


total arsenic, inorganic arsenic, organic arsenic, analysis, food, occurrence, dietary exposure, risk assessment, toxicity, bench mark dose BMD, margin of exposure MOE, arsenic
First published in the EFSA Journal
22 October 2009
12 October 2009
Last Updated
27 September 2010. This version replaces the previous one/s.
Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel

The EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) assessed the risks to human health related to the presence of arsenic in food. More than 100,000 occurrence data on arsenic in food were considered with approximately 98 % reported as total arsenic. Making a number of assumptions for the contribution of inorganic arsenic to total arsenic, the inorganic arsenic exposure from food and water across 19 European countries, using lower bound and upper bound concentrations, has been estimated to range from 0.13 to 0.56 µg/kg bodyweight (b.w.) per day for average consumers, and from 0.37 to 1.22 µg/kg b.w. per day for 95th percentile consumers. Dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic for children under three years of age is in general estimated to be from 2 to 3-fold that of adults. The CONTAM Panel concluded that the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) of 15 µg/kg b.w. established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) is no longer appropriate as data had shown that inorganic arsenic causes cancer of the lung and urinary bladder in addition to skin, and that a range of adverse effects had been reported at exposures lower than those reviewed by the JECFA. The CONTAM Panel modelled the dose-response data from key epidemiological studies and selected a benchmark response of 1 % extra risk. A range of benchmark dose lower confidence limit (BMDL01) values between 0.3 and 8 µg/kg b.w. per day was identified for cancers of the lung, skin and bladder, as well as skin lesions. The estimated dietary exposures to inorganic arsenic for average and high level consumers in Europe are within the range of the BMDL01 values identified, and therefore there is little or no margin of exposure and the possibility of a risk to some consumers cannot be excluded.

Panel members at the time of adoption
Jan Alexander, Diane Benford, Alan 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 Guerin, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Miroslav Machala, Antonio Mutti, Josef Schlatter, Rolaf van Leeuwen and Philippe Verger
Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
EFSA Journal 2009; 7(10):1351 [199 pp.].
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