Fluoride in volcanic ash food risk 'negligible'

by Bryan Salvage
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PARMA, ITALY – Based on available information, the potential risk posed by the fluoride in volcanic ash through contamination of drinking water, fruit, vegetables, fish, milk, meat and feed in the European Union is negligible, according to the European Food Safety Authority (E.F.S.A.). Therefore, the risk for human and animal health through food and feed is not considered to be of concern in the E.U.

The advice was made public in the wake of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland on April 14. E.F.S.A. has issued scientific advice on the possible short-term risks from fluoride in ash for food and feed safety, after a request for advice was made by the European Commission. E.F.S.A. may also deliver advice on the long-term and indirect risks in coming weeks as further data become available on the level and composition of any ash deposits in the E.U.

Due to a lack of data on the composition of ash-fall in the E.U., E.F.S.A. is focusing on fluoride because it has been identified in most scientific publications on past volcanic eruptions around the world as the main component that could pose a short-term risk to food and feed safety. Dietary exposure to fluoride in volcanic ash for humans and fish is usually through contaminated drinking water and for animals, such as cattle and sheep, through eating ash deposited on grass and soil.

However, E.F.S.A. acknowledges in its assessment a number of uncertainties, such as the dispersal of ash in the air, how much ash has fallen in the E.U., the lack of data on the composition of the ash-fall in the E.U. and the geographical areas potentially affected.

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