An EU project is aiming to assess the contamination risks for seafood from the marine environment and potential affects on human health.
ECsafeSEAFOOD will evaluate the potential impact of any presence of contaminants on public health, in a bid to ensure improved seafood risk management and public awareness.
There is rarely well-defined quantitative links between levels of contaminants in the marine environment and levels in seafood, so there is a need for increased research on the transfer of contaminants from the marine environment to seafood, according to the project brief.
Lack of information
Only limited information is available for those seafood contaminants for which the authorities have set no maximum limits, including priority contaminants such as biotoxins from harmful algal blooms and marine litter.
Ten countries are involved in the scheme which has been split into eight different work packages with each participant responsible for different areas.
Inorganic pollutants with the greatest potential for toxicity range from antimony, arsenic and cadmium, to lead, mercury, selenium, and sulfites (used in shrimp processing).
Among organic pollutants are polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, several chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides, and certain processing-related contaminants (nitrosamines and possibly products of chlorination).
The four year project, which started last month, is being led by the Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA, I.P.), Portugal.
The €5m funded project brings together scientists from different disciplines, including: ecotoxicology, biochemistry, nutrition, risk assessment, seafood quality and consumer behaviour and perceptions.
The partnership also includes SMEs in order to facilitate the transfer and uptake of research by interested parties.
Dr Antonio Marques, project coordinator, said: "The ECsafeSEAFOOD project will explore whether there is a relationship between the contamination of the marine environment and the quality of the seafood we consume.
“The health benefits of eating seafood have been proved in many different ways and ECsafeSEAFOOD aims to develop tools to ensure these benefits will continue in the future.
"The ECsafeSEAFOOD project will provide scientific evidence to serve as a basis for the further development of common food safety policies as well as public health and environmental policies and measures.”