Foras na Mara

Joint Study Reassures Consumers of the Benefits of Eating Fish

The Marine Institute, in collaboration with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, today issued reassurance to Irish consumers that levels of potentially harmful contaminants in a variety of fish species and, fresh and processed fish products available on the Irish market are well below current EU limits. 

The advice follows the publication of the results of a comprehensive survey into the levels of dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in fresh and processed fish products.  The study was undertaken as a consequence of concern about the possible effects on human health of these persistent environmental contaminants, known to be present in a number of foodstuffs of animal origin, notably fish, meat, eggs and dairy products.   

A total of 70 fish product samples were collected and analysed for this survey, including; farmed and wild Atlantic salmon, smoked farmed salmon and canned salmon, fresh and canned herring, fresh and canned mackerel, fresh and canned tuna, fresh shellfish and canned sardines.  The study concludes that due to the low levels of dioxins, furans and PCBs detected in Irish fish and fishery products available on the Irish market, exposure of consumers to these contaminants from seafood is likely to be lower than the European average. 

In addition, the study found very low levels of the BFR contaminants and the FSAI concluded that these levels are very unlikely to present a health risk to Irish consumers.  On the basis of these results the FSAI considers that there is no need to alter current advice on fish consumption and re-emphasises that Irish consumers should eat two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily such as salmon.    

Mr Alan Reilly, Deputy Chief Executive, FSAI, stressed that it is important that consumers continue to appreciate the role and benefits of fish in a healthy diet.  “Although fish is a recognised dietary source of dioxins, furans and PCBs, this study highlights that the levels of these contaminants are low in Irish fish products.  The health benefits of eating fish are well established and in light of these findings, we consider that consumers should continue to eat two portions of fish a week, including one oily fish such as salmon.  Together with the Marine Institute and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, we will continue to closely monitor the levels of these contaminants in Irish produce in order to protect the health of the Irish consumer.”  

In relation to Irish farmed salmon, the FSAI, the Marine Institute and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara are also pleased to note the reductions in the levels of dioxins, furans and PCBs detected in this product by the survey in comparison to levels measured in previous studies.  This may in part be attributable to measures adopted by the food industry in the intervening period, such as changes in sources or species of fish oils in fish feeds or changes in feeding management regimes.

The results of the study have been published by the Marine Institute and are also available to download from www.fsai.ie                           

Note to Editors:

The results of this study entitled ‘Investigation into levels of dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls and brominated flame retardants in fishery produce in Ireland; 2007’ are in line with those from previous studies undertaken jointly by the FSAI and the Marine Institute in 2001 and by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara in 2004, but provides additional comprehensive information on the levels of BFRs in Irish fish.   

The previous studies carried out found the levels of dioxins, furans and PCBs in fish and also in meat, milk and eggs available on the Irish marketplace to be relatively low.