Strategies for mitigation of contaminants in food

Rie Romme Rasmussen (Lecturer)

Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations



Contamination of food generally has a negative impact on the quality and may imply a risk to human health. Mitigation measures can minimise the contaminant exposure by changes in the primary production, food processing or dietary recommendations. The best strategy depends on the specific problem. Here are three examples: There is a worldwide concern about dietary inorganic arsenic (iAs) exposure since long-term intake has been associated with a range of health
problems, including skin lesions, cardiovascular diseases and some forms of cancer (EFSA 2014, FAO/WHO 2011). Food and drinking water are the main sources of exposure for the general population in Europe. The main source with the highest iAs concentration is rice. Changes in agricultural practice (environment, rice variety and color, and grain size), processing (polishing, boiling practice) and dietary recommendations (avoid rice crackers) can reduce the dietary exposure rice products (Sharma et al 2014). In fish fillet production the byproducts are at present turned into ensilage and sold as low priced animal feed. To increase the value of these byproducts high quality omega-3 fish oils and protein products intended for human consumption may be produced. Of cause it should comply with the existing EU maximum levels for heavy metals and dioxins. The aquaculture practice (feed, size, age, fat content) and byproduct fraction (intestine or head, tail and bone) influence the contamination level in the raw material. For removal of dioxins deodorization of fish oil at high temperature is recommended. Substituting marine oil in the feed with plant oil will not only decrease dioxins but also the omega-3 level significantly. Although pesticide residues seldom exceed the maximum residue limits (European Commission 2002) consumer awareness is high. Home processing can in some cases reduce the pesticide residues e.g. in apples by washing, boiling, peeling and juicing (Rasmussen et al 2002). The dietary risk assessment can be refined by taking into account changes in contaminant level during processing because of more accurate estimates of the actual consumer exposures. However the agricultural practice, pre-harvest interval from last application of pesticide to harvest, pesticide properties and weather will not only influence the residue level but also alter the effect of home processing practices.

[1] EFSA (2014), EFSA Journal, 12(3):3597–3665.
[2] European Commission (2002) Monitoring of pesticide residues in products of plant origin in the European Union, Norway and Iceland 2000 report, Directorate for general Health and Consumer Protection, SANCO/687/02.
[3] FAO/WHO (2011) Safety evaluation of certain contaminants in food, seventy-second meeting.
[4] WHO Food Additives Series No. 63/ FAO JECFA Monographs 8.
[5] Rasmussen RR, Poulsen ME Hansen and Hansen HCB (2003). Food Additives and Contaminants, 20 (11), 1044-1063.
[6] Sharma AK, Tjell JC, Sloth JJ, Holm PE (2014) Applied Geochemistry 41, 11–33.

Keywords: inorganic arsenic in rice, metals and dioxins in fish, pesticides in apples, mitigation, food processing
Acknowledgement: Funding from The Danish AgriFish Agency (GUDP) — 4009-13-0762.

co-authors; Tommy Licht Cederberg and Jens Jørgen Sloth from National Food Institute (DTU Food), Technical University of Denmark, Soeborg, Denmark
Period4 Nov 2015
Event title7th International Symposium on Recent Advances in Food Analysis
Event typeConference
LocationPrague, Czech Republic


  • inorganic arsenic in rice
  • metals and dioxins in fish
  • pesticides in apples
  • mitigation
  • food processing