Dioxins: safe levels in food

Dioxins are toxic chemicals found in the environment. They can get into the food supply. Find out how dioxins can be a risk to your health, and how their presence is monitored.

What are dioxins?

Dioxins are environmental pollutants that come from:

  • volcanoes and forest fires
  • processes such as manufacturing, and paper and pulp bleaching
  • exhaust emissions
  • burning of waste, and fuels like coal, wood, or oil.

They are colourless and odourless.

Dioxins in food

Dioxins get into the food supply through particles in the air or water. They can be found in fruit and vegetables, meat, and fish. Dioxins can accumulate in animals' fatty tissues, which we then eat.

Declining dioxin levels in foods

Studies have shown dioxin levels are falling. The levels are falling in food and in the environment.

Report on dioxin levels in New Zealand (2011) – Ministry for the Environment

How dioxin levels are monitored

Dioxin contamination is limited to a few historical sites in New Zealand. These include the Kopeopeo Canal in Whakatane and the former Ivon Watkins-Dow chemical plant in New Plymouth. Many of these sites are being, or have been, remediated.

Health risks from dioxins are low but levels are monitored as a precaution. Dioxins are one of the chemicals monitored by the National Chemical Contaminants Programme (NCCP).

National Chemical Contaminants Programme

Safe levels in New Zealand diets

All New Zealand research indicates the risk from dioxins is at least as low as in Australia.

Dioxins in food assessment and risk summary (2004) – Food Standards Australia New Zealand

The Food Standards Code protects consumers

The joint Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code sets standards for dioxins. The standards protect consumers from any potential risks in food.

Dioxins – Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Find out more

Dioxins – Ministry of Health

Dioxins and other organochlorines – Ministry for the Environment

Who to contact

If you have questions about dioxins in food, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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