The tolerable intake of cadmium via food to avoid adverse effects to health: the opinion of the European safety agency EFSA

The current tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 2.5 µg/kg body weight (b.w.) for cadmium adopted in its previous opinion on cadmium in food is still considered appropriate and maintained. This is the conclusion of the Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, CONTAM Panel).

Cadmium exerts toxic effects after long-term exposure mostly on the kidney but also on the bones. Foodstuffs are the major source of cadmium exposure for the non-smoking general population.

This opinion was given in answer to a request of the European Commission in view of the provisional tolerable monthly intake (PTMI) of 25 µg/kg b.w. established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in 2010.

Both assessments used the same epidemiological dataset and considered particularly two elements : the relation between the concentration of cadmium in urine and that of a biomarker of renal toxic effects and also a model that relates urinary cadmium concentration to dietary cadmium intake.

The CONTAM Panel of EFSA reviewed the approach taken in its assessment and carried out a comparison of the two evaluations on the basis of available information. It appeared that the methods and models used to interpret the data available differed in some points which are described in the CONTAM Panel report and in its summary.

Based on their current state of knowledge, the CONTAM Panel concluded that for cadmium the current Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) of 2.5 µg/kg b.w. established in 2009 should be maintained in order to ensure a high level of protection of consumers, including subgroups of the population such as children, vegetarians or people living in highly contaminated areas. Taking non-dietary exposure into account, the Panel anticipated that the total exposure of some subgroups of the population could nevertheless exceed the limits set by JECFA as well as by the CONTAM Panel.

The CONTAM Panel reaffirmed its previous conclusion that adverse effects are unlikely to occur in an individual with current dietary exposure, but there is a need to reduce exposure to cadmium at the population level.

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