The EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health has voted in favour of a European Commission proposal to set maximum levels at EU level for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), in particular for benzo(a)pyrene, in foods.

This applies to certain foods containing fats and oils, and foods where smoking or drying processes might cause high levels of contamination. Maximum levels are also proposed for foods such as fish, where environmental pollution may cause high levels of contamination, for example resulting from oil spills. The Commission said PAHs have been shown to be carcinogenic and maximum levels have been set to protect public health.

"Contamination with PAHs has been on our agenda for some time. This follows the incidents of contamination in vegetable oils in particular in 2001. Interim local measures were put in place to manage the problem in the short term whilst more data was gathered. We also made a thorough investigation of production practices and other potential sources of contamination. I am happy to see this agreement today, which will ensure the same level of protection of public health across the EU," said David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.