Monitoring dioxins, PCBs and flame retardants

Monitoring dioxins, PCBs, PFAS and flame retardants in agricultural and fishery products

On behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), Wageningen Food Safety Research analyses samples of agricultural products of animal origin for dioxins, PCBs, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs). This includes meat, milk, eggs and fish.

The samples are taken at the primary production or processing stage (e.g. in slaughterhouses or raw milk collection services). For dioxin-like compounds, 350 samples are first screened with the DR CALUX® method. Samples giving a signal indicating a level above the lowest action level are regarded as suspected. These samples are further examined using GC/HRMS as confirmatory method. Concerning fish, shellfish and crustaceans, approx. 25 samples are collected at sea by research vessels, at the fish auction, or from whole-sale traders (farmed fish).

Background concentrations

Additionally, within the framework of the EU monitoring of background levels of dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs in foodstuffs, each year approximately 100 samples of foodstuffs (meat, milk and eggs) are examined with GC/HRMS. These samples are randomly chosen from the samples that are screened with the DR CALUX® method.

In these samples, also brominated flame retardants (BFRs), i.e. polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), are analysed. In addition, 150 samples are examined with LC/MS for PFASs. The fish, shellfish and crustaceans monitoring focusses on dioxins and PCBs, BFRs (PBDEs and hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs), PFASs and organochlorine pesticides. Apart from monitoring, surveys are performed to zoom in on a specific product if such need becomes apparent. 


For the EU-regulation for action and maximum levels for dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs in foodstuffs see Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006. For BFRs and PFASs there are no limits.

Results monitoring dioxins, PCBs, BFRs, OCPs and PFASs

The link ResearchData will give access to the yearly monitoring results since 2008.