The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) panel on contaminants in the food chain has set a reduced tolerable weekly intake (TWI).

The authority is recommending a cadmium intake of 2.5 micrograms per kilogram of body weight based on an analysis of new data revealed today (20 March).

The TWI is the level at which adverse effects are not expected, the EFSA said. Average dietary exposure to cadmium for adults across Europe is around this level. Some population groups – vegetarians, children, smokers and people living in highly contaminated areas – can have a higher level of exposure up to twice the TWI.

However, the panel concluded that even for these groups the risk of adverse effects would be “very low” and that current exposure to cadmium – a heavy metal which enters the environment from natural sources – at the level of the population should be reduced.

EFSA was asked by the European Commission to assess the risks to human health related to the presence of cadmium in foodstuffs in order to support risk managers in reviewing the maximum permitted levels in food. It was also asked to indicate the relative importance of other sources of exposure to cadmium and consider the exposure situation for specific groups of the population, including children.

The panel stated that locally-produced food in highly contaminated areas may lead to higher exposure levels. Furthermore, dietary exposure could be higher for children than adults, due to the greater amount of food consumed by children in relation to their bodyweight.