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PAHs in Food
Occurrence of PAHs in foods
Raw foods should usually not contain high levels of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). In areas remote from urban or industrial activities, the levels of PAH found in unprocessed foods reflect the background contamination, which originates from long distance airborne transportation of contaminated particles and natural emissions from volcanoes and forest fires. In the neighborhood of industrial areas or along highways, the contamination of vegetation can be higher than in rural areas.

Processing of food (such as drying and smoking) and cooking of foods at high temperatures (grilling, roasting, frying) are major sources generating PAH. High levels have been found for individual PAH in smoked fish and meat. Contamination of vegetable oils (including olive residue oils) with PAH usually occurs during technological processes like direct fire drying, where combustion products may come into contact with the oil seeds or oil.

Health Effects
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) 1987 classified the PAHs as follows:
Naphthalene Possibly carcinogenic to humans
Acenaphthylene -
Acenaphthene -
Fluorene Not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans
Phenanthrene Not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans
Anthracene Not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans
Fluoranthene Not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans
Pyrene Not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans
Benzo[a]anthracene Probably carcinogenic to humans
Chrysene/Triphenylene Not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans
Benzo[b]fluoranthene Possibly carcinogenic to humans
Benzo[k]fluoranthene Possibly carcinogenic to humans
Benzo[a]pyrene Probably carcinogenic to humans
Indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene Possibly carcinogenic to humans
Dibenz[a,h]anthracene Probably carcinogenic to humans
Benzo[g,h,i]perylene Not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is to be of the opinion that edible oil with more than 1 µg/kg of Benzo(a)pyren or more than 5 µg/kg of heavy PAH is not marketable.

The European commission sets the limits of Benzo(a)pyrene with the actual regulation 208/2005/EC as described below. This regulation becomes in force until April 2005.
The foodstuffs must not placed on the market, contain higher contaminant levels specified in that regulation.

Regulation 208/2005 limits for Benzo(a)pyrene

Maximum level
(µg/kg wet weight)
Oils and fats intended for direct human consumption or use as an ingredient in foods 2
Foods for infants and young children 1
Baby foods and processed cereal-based foods for infants and young children
Infant formulae and follow-on formulae, including infant milk and follow-on milk
Dietary foods for special medical purposes (5) intended specifically for infants
Smoked meats and smoked meat products 5
Muscle meat of smoked fish and smoked fishery products (6), excluding bivalve molluscs 5
Muscle meat of fish (7), other than smoked fish 2
Crustaceans, cephalopods, other than smoked 5
Bivalve molluscs 10

GALAB Services
GALAB Laboratories offer an analytical service for your Quality Management. GALAB developed a methodology to detect PAHs in food. We are able to detect levels of PAHs in food down to 0,5 µg/kg.
The requirements of the European Directive 2005/10/EC are fulfilled.
Your advantages
  • · Certified products
  • · Ensuring competitive advantage
  • · Preparing for future regulations
  • · Strengthening of your market position
  • · Keeping the consumers' confidence
  • · Maintaining the image of your brand
Our features for your product quality
  • · DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025 accredited
  • · International reference laboratory
  • · Renowned companies rely on GALAB
  • · Highest industry requirements are
  • · 12 years of experience in analytical

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