The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority (CAFIA) said tins from five batches of the product imported from Poland were currently being removed from shops after samples were found to contain levels of dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) up to 80 per cent above permitted European regulatory levels.
The EU limit for dioxins and PCBs in codfish livers is 25 picograms/gram (pg/g). Czech food safety officials said tests from its laboratory showed that levels in five samples ranged from 41.7 pg/g to 45.1pg/g.
But the agency said it still did not know how many tins – ranging in weight from 110-120g - could be in circulation in the country or the names of the producers. A number of the products are believed to have already been purchased by consumers and have best before dates between 30 November 2011 and 31 January 2013. CAFIA said there was no “imminent threat” to human health but warned against eating the products.
Some of the brands of codfish livers highlight their levels of omega-3 - which have been widely documented to provide cardiovascular and cognitive health benefits.
Retailer was ordered to cease selling the tainted lots immediately – two of which belonged to the same private retail brand. Under the precautionary principle, the ban was also imposed on other product lots of the same brand, CAFIA spokeswoman Martina Smidtova told FoodProductionDaily.com.
But she added that while the names of the suppliers and distributors were known, the identity of the producer of the contaminated codfish livers remained a mystery as this information had not been printed on the packaging. The agency said it was also awaiting the outcome of the State Veterinary Administration’s inquiry into the suppliers to confirm the number of tins distributed in the Czech Republic.
The CAFIA spokeswoman confirmed the ban would only be lifted once the safety of the products had been proved. The authority had posted a notice through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) so that authorities in Poland could take action.
Dioxins and similar compounds, such as dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), include a range of toxic substances which are formed by burning and some industrial processes. Long-term exposure to high levels of the chemicals has been shown to cause a range of effects, including cancer.