Baby food, vegetables, fruit, cereals, meat, fish and other food stuffs will have to meet stricter limits of cadmium and lead content before they can be sold in the European Union, according to new rules that will be applicable from the end of August.
Cadmium and lead are toxic metals present in many food stuffs, but below certain limits they are not considered dangerous for human health.
The EU has now lowered these limits for a long list of food products in a bid to reduce exposure to carcinogenic substances, the European Commission said on Wednesday, following scientific advice.
'Putting Consumers First'
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said, "We know that an unhealthy diet increases the risk of cancer. Today's decision is about putting consumers first by making our food safer and healthier, as we have committed to do in the EU Cancer Plan.
"It is also another step in strengthening the already high and world-class EU standards in the EU food chain and providing safer, healthier and more sustainable food for our citizens."
The stricter limits for cadmium will be applied from 31 August, and for lead from 30 August.
Products that contain these metals beyond the new limits, but that entered the market before the new rules came into effect, can be sold until the end of February.
Kyriakides added that the decision follows years of continuous work by the Commission, member states and the European Food Safety Authority, as well as consultations with the food industry.
The main source of cadmium exposure for non-smokers is food. Lead is a naturally occurring contaminant in the environment and food is the main source of human exposure to lead.