Apart from nutrients, planted crops can also absorb undesired substances that are naturally present in soils. One of these substances is cadmium. The levels of cadmium are low in grains compared to other types of food. However, it is still important to have control of and minimize the levels of cadmium. Lantmännen works hard to minimize cadmium levels in our food products. These efforts are conducted throughout the whole chain from field to fork.
Cadmium is naturally present in the soil
Cadmium is a heavy metal naturally present in the soil. Levels vary depending on geography and type of soil. As cadmium is present in soils and is absorbed by crops it is found in most of the food that we eat, though often at very low and harmless levels.
Cadmium is not acutely toxic but stays in the body during a long period of time and is accumulated in the kidneys. Potential health risks are due to long term exposure, i.e. the total amount of cadmium absorbed from various sources over time. Studies show that a large intake during a long period of time can cause, among other things, an impaired kidney function, osteoporosis and contribute to cardiovascular disease.
How much cadmium are we exposed to?
Most Swedes are exposed to less cadmium via food than the recommended limit stated by the European Food Safety Authority Efsa. However, as cadmium is an undesired substance and a small percentage of the population is likely to exceed this limit, it is still important to minimize the amount in the food we eat.
Grain-based products generally contain small amounts of cadmium. However, it is a food category that many people eat a lot of. Organ meats, seafood and certain types of mushrooms are examples of foods that can contain high levels of cadmium.
In Sweden, the National Food Agency monitors and handles issues related to cadmium and other undesired substances in food.
Affect the cadmium level in food
To decrease levels of cadmium in food requires long-term efforts in several areas. Above all, it’s about where and in what type of soil we choose to cultivate different types of crops for various purposes. Methods for control and analysis of cadmium levels also need to be further developed at all stages – from soil and fertilizers to crop and finished product. Efforts to minimize additional cadmium entering the ground are also required. Air pollution from incineration plants and the use of fertilizers containing cadmium can to some extent contribute to higher cadmium levels in soils.
There is no difference between organic and conventional production considering levels of cadmium, as the crops risk absorbing the cadmium occurring naturally in the soil regardless of cultivation method.