A survey by researchers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides in cheese has shown that some samples contained levels of dioxin-like PCBs above maximum limits permitted in the EU.
The survey looked at 61 cheese brands sold in supermarkets, including seven organic products. They found that a few pesticides and PCBs were present at low levels in most of the samples. Although PCB levels were low in both types of cheese, dioxin-like PCBs were found in some cheeses at concentrations above the 3 pg WHO-TEQ(World Health Organisation-toxic equivalent)/g fat limit applying in the EU. The highest level found in any sample was 76 pg WHO-TEQ/g fat. Consumers eating the most contaminated brands could exceed the recommended tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 2 pg WHO-TEQ/kg body weight/day.
The researchers say that, since the cheeses sampled are on sale all over Spain and other European countries, their results may apply widely. They conclude that there is cause for concern from a public health point of view.
The survey results are published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology and an abstract can be found here.