Benefit-risk assessment of Baltic herring

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What are the health benefits and risks of the current consumption of Baltic herring in the Finnish population? Should actions be taken to reduce risks?

Intended use and users

  • Finnish Food Safety Authority needs this information to a) report back to the European Commission about the dioxin exemption for Baltic herring, and b) plan for actions to reduce health risks, if necessary.


Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira)

Anja Hallikainen, Tiina Ritvanen, Mervi Rokka

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)

Hannu Harjunpää, Pekka J. Vuorinen

National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)

Hannu Kiviranta, Marjo Niittynen, Jouni T. Tuomisto, Anu Turunen, Sari Ung-Lanki, Arja Asikainen


  • Population of Finland
  • Direct health impacts of consumption of Baltic herring as food.
  • Pollutants and nutrients considered: dioxins, PCBs, methylmercury (only in the updated assessment, which is not in the Evira report), omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D.
  • Health impacts in the foetus and the infant is considered based on the fish consumption of the mother.
  • Consumption of other fish is not considered. However, this would be important, as e.g. the exposure-response function of omega-3 fatty acids is nonlinear and the marginal benefit decreases with increasing dose. Because of this, a sensitivity analysis is performed with a scenario where average omega-3 fatty acid background intake is assumed.

Decisions and scenarios

  • Should Baltic herring intake be limited to 3 g/d (approximately equal to the current recommendation for fertile men and women of 1 portion per month)? Yes or no (assumes 100 % compliance).
Decisions(g /d)
1EviraRecommendationNo limitamountIdentity0


  • Current situation, no time dynamics, i.e. assumes that all health effects occur instantly.



Results from model run 19.10.2015


  • Consumption recommendations for women in fertile age are warranted based on IQ impacts and less importantly in dental defect impacts in the child. Upper limit recommendation of three grams per day (one meal of Baltic herring per month) seems to minimise health hazards.
  • Consumption restrictions to males are not warranted, as the health benefits are clear while risks to the child are irrelevant.
  • Health benefits to cardiac mortality are clear in age groups older than 50 years, and Baltic herring consumption, among other fish concumption, should be recommended.


BRA of Baltic herring- info flow.png





This code is just a placeholder for the actual model code on page op_fi:Silakan hyöty-riskiarvio. You can get the final model run, including detailed data about all Monte Carlo simulations, by installing OpasnetUtils package from CRAN and running this code:


+ Show code

See also



Related files