Scientific Opinion on the risk to public health related to the presence of high levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in liver from sheep and deer


Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
EFSA Journal
EFSA Journal 2011;9(7):2297 [71 pp.].
Panel members at the time of adoption
Jan Alexander, Diane Benford, Alan Raymond Boobis, Sandra Ceccatelli, Bruce Cottrill, 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, Martin Rose, Josef Rudolf Schlatter and Rolaf van Leeuwen

The Panel wishes to thank the members of the Working Group on Dioxins in Sheep Liver: Jean-Pierre Cravedi, Alessandro Di Domenico, Peter Fürst, Carlo Nebbia and Dieter Schrenk for the preparatory work on this scientific opinion and EFSA staff: Alessandro Carletti, Gina Cioacata and Luisa Ramos Bordajandi for the support provided to this scientific opinion for the support provided to this scientific opinion. The CONTAM Panel acknowledges all the European countries that provided dioxin and PCB occurrence data in food and supported the consumption data collection for the Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database.

Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel
On request from
European Commission
Question Number
5 July 2011
Published in the EFSA Journal
19 July 2011
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy

EFSA was asked by the European Commission to deliver a scientific opinion on the risk to public health related to the presence of high levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in liver from sheep and deer. The opinion should also explore possible reasons for these high findings. Moreover, EFSA was asked whether dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels for liver should better be expressed on fresh weight rather than on a fat basis. The Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) evaluated dioxin and PCB results from 332 sheep liver, 175 sheep meat and 9 deer liver samples submitted by eight European countries and estimated the exposure through consumption of sheep liver for adults (consumers only) and children. Regular consumption of sheep liver would result on average in an approximate 20 % increase of the median background exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs (DL-PCBs) for adults. On individual occasions, consumption of sheep liver could result in high intakes exceeding the tolerable weekly intake (TWI). The CONTAM Panel concluded that the frequent consumption of sheep liver, particularly by women of child-bearing age and children, may be a potential health concern. Additional intake of non dioxin-like PCBs (NDL-PCBs) from consumption of sheep liver does not add substantially to the total dietary intake. The range of fat content in sheep liver is considerably narrower than for a number of other food categories regulated in Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006. Therefore, the CONTAM Panel sees no need to change the basis for expression of results and maximum levels solely for liver from fat weight to fresh weight basis. A lower activity of CYP1A enzymes in sheep than in cattle was identified as a possible reason for higher dioxin and DL-PCB levels in sheep liver.

Dioxins, PCBs, sheep liver, occurrence, consumption, exposure, risk assessment
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