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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 16:19 GMT
Euro backing for Scottish salmon
Scientists issued a warning over salmon
The European Commission has moved to reassure the public that Scottish farmed salmon is safe to eat.

Brussels said it was standing by its guidelines after US researchers claimed that the fish contained cancer-causing chemicals.

The study, published in the journal Science, said people should eat no more than two ounces of Scottish farmed salmon each month.

But an EC spokeswoman said the recommended limits were satisfactory.

Beate Gminder spoke on behalf of Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, David Byrne.

She said: "We agree with the assessment made by the UK Food Standards Agency that the levels in our European salmon do not exceed EU limits."

Salmon production

She said things like consumption levels were taken into account when setting maximum daily levels for dioxins.

The commission believed that the limits, which had been based on scientific advice, were "accurate and valid".

"These have not been exceeded by European salmon production," said Ms Gminder.

Her views were backed by food expert Professor Hugh Pennington, an adviser for the Food Standards Agency.

The evidence is pretty clear that the officially recommended levels, which are higher than the ones that the scientists are talking about, are actually safe
Professor Hugh Pennington
The FSA has stressed that the dioxins and PCBs found in the study were within safety levels set by the World Health Organisation and the European Commission.

The latest research was carried out by scientists from six research centres in the United States and Canada.

The FSA has urged people to keep eating salmon despite the findings, which were dismissed as "misleading" by the salmon industry.

Professor Pennington said that a lot of work had been done on working out safe consumption levels for dioxins.

He said it was impossible to completely avoid the chemicals, which occur naturally in the environment and are found in many other foods.

Recommended levels

"What the consumer has to do is make a balanced judgment," he said.

"It is a balance between one group of scientists being ultra, ultra precautionary and the official bodies, which have traditionally had problems in getting their message across with trust because of things like BSE.

"But I think that in this one the evidence is pretty clear that the officially recommended levels, which are higher than the ones that the scientists are talking about, are actually safe."

He said there was a "fundamental difference" with the "rather optimistic" advice which was offered on BSE in the past.

Professor Pennington said that advice had been offered at a time when little was known about the effects of BSE - whereas dioxins had been studied for many years.

"I know that there is a very big margin between the actual levels that people think are safe and the levels that are recommended by the FSA and the US Department of Agriculture," he said.

"They have a factor of 100 built into their recommendations."

He said experts were not taking any risks with public health.

Salmon health scare 'ignored'
12 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Industry defends Scottish salmon
09 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Scare over farmed salmon safety
08 Jan 04  |  Health
Farm threat to wild salmon
20 Oct 03  |  Science/Nature

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