Risk to consumers from nitrate found in vegetables is minimal, says panel

The benefits of eating fresh produce outweigh any risk posed to human health from exposure to nitrate through vegetables, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Contaminants Panel has concluded.

The panel, which was asked by the European Commission to deliver an opinion on the risks, said only a small part of the European Union population (2.5 per cent), who are high consumers of green leafy vegetables, could exceed the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for nitrate.

The average consumer eats 400g of fruit and vegetables a day, so would not exceed the ADI. The finding will help determine future strategies on nitrate in vegetables.

Nitrate is present in most vegetables to a degree, but the critical driver for a high-dietary exposure to nitrate is not the absolute amount of vegetables consumed but the type of vegetables, for example, leafy vegetables, and the respective concentration of nitrate. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce and rucola have the highest nitrate content. Nitrate content of vegetables also varies in relation to other factors, such as the extent of use of nitrate fertilisers.

The panel also noted that further mitigation of nitrate intake may result from processing - washing, peeling and/or cooking - thus providing an extra safety margin for consumers.


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