Dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic in the European population

food, occurrence data, dietary exposure, inorganic arsenic
First published in the EFSA Journal
6. März 2014
28. Februar 2014
Scientific Report


Arsenic is a ubiquitous metalloid present at low concentrations in rocks, soil and natural ground water. A total of 103 773 food samples (including drinking water) were used to calculate dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic (iAs). Of these, 101 020 were based on total arsenic (tAs) and 2 753 on iAs. Among the reported results on tAs, 66.1 % were below the limit of detection or quantification (left-censored); for the reported data on iAs the percentage of left-censored data was 41.9 %. Most of the data (92.5 %) reported as tAs were converted to iAs using different approaches before calculating dietary exposure to iAs. The EFSA Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database was used to estimate chronic dietary exposure to iAs using 28 surveys from 17 European countries. According to the scenarios used for the treatment of left-censored data, mean dietary exposure among infants, toddlers and other children ranged from 0.20 to 1.37 μg/kg b.w. per day, while the 95th percentile dietary exposure estimates ranged from 0.36 to 2.09 μg/kg b.w. per day. Mean dietary exposure among the adult population (including adults, elderly and very elderly) ranged from 0.09 to 0.38 μg/kg b.w. per day, and 95th percentile dietary exposure estimates ranged from 0.14 to 0.64 μg/kg b.w. per day. For all the age classes except infants and toddlers, the main contributor to dietary exposure to iAs was the food group ‘Grain-based processed products (non rice-based)’, in particular, wheat bread and rolls. Other food groups that were important contributors to iAs exposure were rice, milk and dairy products (main contributor in infants and toddlers), and drinking water. The most important sources of uncertainty in the present assessment are related to the heterogeneity of the food consumption data, the conversion of tAs into iAs and to the treatment of the left-censored data.

European Food Safety Authority
DATA.Admin [at]
EFSA Journal 2014;12(3):3597
Question Number
On request from
European Commission