EFSA issues scientific advice on short-term risks for food and feed safety in the EU following Iceland volcano eruption

Following a request from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued scientific advice on the possible short-term risks from fluoride in ash for food and feed safety, including drinking water, in the wake of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland on 14th April 2010. EFSA may deliver advice on the long term and indirect risks in coming weeks as further data become available on the level and composition of any ash deposits in the EU.

EFSA concludes that based on available information, the potential risk posed by the fluoride in volcanic ash through contamination of drinking water, fruit, vegetables, fish, milk, meat and feed in the European Union is negligible. Therefore, the risk for human and animal health through food and feed is not considered to be of concern in the EU.

Due to a lack of data on the composition of ash-fall in the EU, EFSA is focusing on fluoride because it has been identified in most scientific publications on past volcanic eruptions around the world as the main component that could pose a short-term risk to food and feed safety.

Dietary exposure to fluoride in volcanic ash for humans and fish is usually through contaminated drinking water and for animals, such as cattle and sheep, through eating ash deposited on grass and soil.

In its assessment, EFSA acknowledges a number of uncertainties, such as the dispersal of ash in the air, how much ash has fallen in the EU, the lack of data on the composition of the ash-fall in the EU, and the geographical areas potentially affected.

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