Baltic environment, food and health:
from habits to awareness.

Contaminants in food items and possible harmful environmental impacts of food production

Dietary habits and food choices vary by gender, age, area and incomes. When looking at the national food recommendations in Finland, Estonia and Latvia more similarities than differences are seen between countries.

  • The nutritional recommendations in all countries include limitation of consumption of fat, especially animal fat, meat products and promotion of vegetable consumption.
  • Recommended share of fat, carbohydrates and proteins are equal in every country.
  • Recommendations include specific advices for children and pregnant women.
  • In Latvia and in Finland special dietary advice on fish consumption have been issued to children, young people and people at fertile age.
  • As summarized the diets with plenty of fiber-rich plant foods with frequent consumption of fish, seafood and vegetable oils, and in which low fat dairy products are favored and salt (NaCl) intake is limited, are associated with lower risk of most diet-related chronic diseases.
  • Nutritional recommendations on food also take into account the importance of physical activity.


Food consumption forms a significant part of the environmental load of individual households. The eutrophication intensity varies between different foodstuffs.

  • The beef has the highest eutrophication intensity of all meat products, about three times higher than pork, and seven times that of poultry.
  • The eutrophication intensity of milk is relatively low. Still, the values of beef and milk are partly bound together, since a significant share of beef comes from milk cows.
  • The eutrophication impacts of plants also vary between species. Among the plant based raw materials grain has the highest intensity.

The modelling results show though, that the eutrophication can be reduced about 7% by changing the food consumption habits into recommended direction, and the private food consumption is not far from recommended. The major shift, about 7 % units from protein to carbohydrates, was reached in the scenario by applying a reduction to all protein foods, and an increment in all carbohydrate foods.


In addition food can contain hazardous compounds from various sources. They partly originate from the food production and food processing and partly from anthropogenic emissions to the environment and subsequent accumulation to food raw materials. There are also reports of soluble chemicals from packaging materials such as tin cans or plastics.


Certain food items can also be "naturally harmful". For example, green potatoes and tomatoes synthesize glycoalkaloids. Moulds can also commonly spoil food by producing harmful mycotoxins, which can cause serious health problems to humans and livestock animals.


The idea of web application "Contaminants in food" is to present some possible chemicals detected from different food items. Contaminants to the project were selected due to their wide appearance in the environment, possible negative environmental impacts, bioaccumulation potential and their potential harmful impacts to humans and animals. It should be noted, that even though some contaminants would be detected from food items, their total concentrations still might not exceed the tolerable daily intake values.


Please note that the whole diet is the key for human health and wellbeing, not just the individual food items!

Contaminants in food items and possible harmful environmental impacts of food production