ANSES's expert appraisal of tested milk samples following the fire at the Lubrizol plant

Following the fire at the Lubrizol plant, animal products such as milk, eggs and honey, as well as plant products, were impounded in many municipalities where soot had been observed (Seine-Maritime, Oise, Nord, Somme and Aisne). As part of its expert appraisal on the potential food risks from the deposition resulting from the plume of smoke, on 11 October ANSES received an urgent request to provide scientific evidence on the possibilities and conditions for lifting the ban on milk collection.

In total, ANSES examined the results of 130 milk samples (milk, raw milk, whole milk, tank milk mixtures, mainly from cows and partly from goats) taken over a period between three and eleven days after the fire, from 29 September to 7 October 2019.

The contaminants urgently defined and prioritised for screening during this first phase of sampling were dioxins and furans, PCBs, PAHs and trace metals (lead, cadmium, mercury). As these contaminants can potentially be found in the environment, maximum regulatory levels to protect consumer health have already been established for food. In order to analyse the measured contamination levels, ANSES made several comparisons, in particular with contamination values obtained by surveillance and control plans at national level.

In summary, the samples studied by the experts of ANSES's Emergency Collective Expert Appraisal Group:

  • do not show any cases of the maximum regulatory levels being exceeded (with the exception of an isolated atypical value for lead), and their median values are below 20% of these maximum levels;
  • do not differ significantly from the results of national surveillance and control plans, for the statistical indices considered by experts to be most relevant (75th and 95th percentiles);
  • do not show any upward trend over time after spatial clustering;
  • show lower values than those measured during previous atypical contamination situations related to industrial accidents or major chronic pollution.

However, ANSES points out that there are still uncertainties regarding the risk of milk contamination from the particles deposited by the fire and recommends further work to better identify contaminant dispersion in the environment and any possible contamination hotspots.

In ANSES’s view, any lifting of the milk marketing restrictions must be accompanied by an enhanced surveillance system, which:

  • takes into account the way animals are housed and fed;
  • allows early detection of any milk contamination, either through the soil of pastures, drinking water or locally produced feed that may have been exposed.

Lastly, with regard to the disposal of milk that is not authorised for consumption, the experts reiterate the need for vigilance regarding how this is carried out, and in this respect refer to the provisions in force (Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 and its implementing texts).