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Research: Emerging Chemical contaminants in Seafood – ECsafeSEAFOOD guides


Human pollution of the world oceans is of great concern to many people, and is also ranked high on the agenda with the industry and policymakers. To provide knowledge and advice to consumers, industry and policymakers, a European-wide study was conducted. This to start investigating and monitoring emerging contaminants in seafood and evaluate their impact on public health. Royal Greenland has actively participated in and supported the 4-year long research project.

ECsafeSEAFOOD was a 4-year long project. Purpose was to understand food safety issues related to priority contaminants present in seafood as a result of environmental contamination (including those originating from harmful algal blooms and those associated with marine litter) and evaluate their impact on public health.

What consumers think?
Consumer perceptions related to seafood and human health were assessed in a survey of  2,917 European consumers from five countries (Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Italy)(4). The study concludes:

  • 72% considered eating seafood to be healthy despite the possible risks;
  • 74% were aware that eating fatty seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids lowers their risk of coronary heart diseases;
  • 42% reported concern about the safety of consuming seafood, being mainly worried about heavy metals contamination (48%), plastic residues (41%), pharmaceuticals (34%), antibiotics and hormones (33%);
  • European consumers also showed a strong interest in information about seafood safety, especially regarding shelf life, origin, date of capture, contaminant level, quality mark, safety guarantee, additives used and wild versus farmed fish;

Funded by the European Union, the project has resulted in a range of scientific articles and for direct use three guidelines for Safe Seafood; one for Consumers, one for the Industry and one for Policy makers. Research and guidelines are publicly available here:


The guidelines conclude that, in Europe, fish and shellfish purchased from regulated commercial distributors are safe, and pose no potential health risk for consumers. Moreover, for most people the overall benefits of seafood consumption outweigh any possible food safety risks(5).

The guidelines urge Consumers, Industry and Policy Makers to follow the guidelines and act on specific recommendations. Doing this can help reduce potential risk of emerging contaminants to spread into the oceans.


See the full reports here:

Royal Greenland’s species

As one of the primary producers of European seafood Royal Greenland see it as an important task to contribute to development of insight and knowledge also in this new field. For this reason Royal Greenland has actively participated in the ECsafeSEAFOOD research program with some of our core species, namely cold-water shrimp (cooked and peeled), Greenland turbot (cold smoked) and Atlantic salmon (cold smoked).

“Food safety is of utmost importance for us, and we need to be on the forefront of understanding and documenting the safety of our products. We mainly fish in isolated areas in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, and have not traditionally seen contaminants as high risk. However, with increasing pollution of the sea other places in the world, we must take precautions. Annette Søndergaard, Chief Quality Officer, Royal Greenland.

In the study the species were analyzed both before and after processing in order to understand whether the processing itself affected the contaminant levels. All species were investigated for up to 25 different contaminants including arsenic, chromium, mercury, brominated flame retardants etc. (7)

In all samples analyzed, the contaminant level, if any, were far below the EU maximum levels (7). The primary outcome of participating in the study has thus been increased understanding of the behavior of potential contamination in our production environment, as well as the potential risks. The processing flows in the factories and the HACCP control systems have been evaluated and found satisfying should a problem arise in the future.

”It is very satisfying for Royal Greenland to take part in this important research project, and to continue to support this important agenda and knowledge base European-wide” Niels Bøknæs, Processing Developer.


(4) Reuver M., Barbosa V., Marques A., Calis T., Ferrari F., Cunha S.C. and Fernandes J.O (2017) Safe Seafood Guide for Industry: Emerging Chemical Contaminants in Seafood.

(5) Reuver M., Barbosa V., Marques A., Calis T., Tediosi A., Cunha S.C. and Fernandes J.O (2017) Safe Seafood Guide for Consumers: Emerging Chemical Contaminants in Seafood.

(7)Rasmussen, R., Søndergaard, A., Bøknæs, N., Cederberg T., Sloth J.J., Granby, K. (2017) Effects of industrial processing on essential elements and regulated and emerging contaminant levels in seafood, Food and Chemical Toxicology

Next news: The positive momentum maintained at Royal Greenland