Contaminants are substances that have not been intentionally added to food. These substances may be present in food as a result of the various stages of its production, packaging, transport or holding. They also might result from environmental contamination. Since contamination generally has a negative impact on the quality of food and may imply a risk to human and animal health, the EU has taken measures to minimise contaminants in foodstuffs. Maximum limits have been set for many contaminants to protect the consumer against overexposure.

For oils and fats and products thereof, important contaminants are: metals (lead), 3-MCPD,  glycidylesters, dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs, non dioxin-like PCBs, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) (benzo(a)pyrene) and sum of 4 PAHs), erucic acid, mycotoxins.

Contaminants legislation for food can be found in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs (consolidated version). 

Erucic acid

See Other contaminants


 Mycotoxins and Plant toxins


Food product

Maximum levels

Aflatoxin B1

Peanut and coconut oil

2 µg/kg

Aflatoxin B1 + B2 + G1 + G2

Peanut and coconut oil

4 µg/kg


Refined maize oil

400 µg/kg


Lead and Benzo(a)pyrene 



Maximum levels


Fats and oils for human consumption

0.1 mg/kg (also Codex)


Fats and oils for human consumption

2 µg/kg benzo(a)pyrene

10 µg/kg sum of benzo(a)pyrene, benz(a)anthracene, benzo(b)fluoranthene and chrysene

*) PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) 


Dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin like PCBs (from 1st January 2012) 


Maximum levels

Sum of dioxins and furans (WHO-PCDD/ F-TEQ)

Maximum levels

Sum of dioxins, and dioxin-like PCBs



Maximum levels

Sum of PCB28, PCB52, PCB101,

PCB138, PCB153 and PCB180 (ICES-6)

Vegetable oils / fats

0,75 pg/g fat

1,25 pg/g fat

40 ng/g fat





Animal fats from:

-      bovines/sheep      

-      poultry

-      pigs


2,5 pg/g fat

1,75 pg/g fat

1,0 pg/g fat


4,0 pg/g fat

3,0 pg/g fat

1,25 pg/g fat


40 ng/g

40 ng/g

40 ng/g

Mixed animal fats

1,5 pg/g fat

2,50 pg/g fat

40 ng/g fat





Marine oil

1,75 pg/g fat

6,0 pg/g fat

200 ng/g fat


Action levels dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs

Action levels are set to reduce the dioxin intake of the European Community population. They are meant as a tool for competent authorities and operators to highlight those cases where it is appropriate to identify a source of contamination and to take measures to reduce or eliminate it. 

From January 2012 onwards, there is only an action limit set for mixed fats. For the sum of dioxins and furans for mixed fats, a limit of 1,0 pg/g fat applies, whereas a limit of 0,75 pg/g fat applies for dioxin-like PCBs. For details see Recommendation (2013/711/EU). In september 2014 action levels were also introduced for oilseeds, see Recommendation (2014/663/2014).

Regulation (EU) 2017/644 lays down the offical control methods of sampling and analysis for the control of levels of dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs in certain foodstuffs.









Last modified: October 19, 2020 14:15