17 June 2010

Pollutants make free-range eggs less healthy

by Kate Melville

Free-range eggs may not be as healthy as consumers think, with new research showing alarmingly high levels of dioxins in free-range eggs compared to cage laid eggs. The Taiwanese study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that free-range eggs in Taiwan contain at least five times higher levels of certain pollutants than regular eggs.

Study author Pao-Chi Liao classified free-range chickens as those that have continuous access to fresh air, sunshine and exercise. But Liao and his colleagues suspect that free-range chickens may risk getting higher levels of exposure to environmental pollutants, particularly PCDDs and PCDFs, potentially toxic substances that are produced as by-products of burning waste. Also known as dioxins, these substances are linked to a wide range of health problems in humans.

Liao adds the caveat that Taiwan is a heavily populated, industrialized island with many municipal incinerators in agricultural areas. But he does suggest that his findings should raise concerns about the safety of eating free-range chicken eggs given that the free-range eggs contained 5.7 times higher levels of PCDDs and PCDFs than regular eggs.

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Source: American Chemical Society