News; Mar 22, 2016 8:00 AM CET

New limit values for GOTHIATEK®

Swedish Match is now lowering the limit values for undesired substances in snus and is also adding limit values for other undesired substances.  

Using the GOTHIATEK® quality standard, all snus products from Swedish Match are inspected with the aim of minimizing the levels of undesired substances and improving product safety.  Undesired substances exist, are added or formed in nature and can be found in various types of cultivated crops and food. The requirements set by GOTHIATEK® relating to snus manufacturing and quality exceed those imposed in food safety legislation.

GOTHIATEK® has been Swedish Match’s product quality standard since 2000. The requirements imposed by GOTHIATEK® on the company’s snus products rest on decades of research and development, and are based on the three cornerstones of consumer care, quality and openness.

“By applying GOTHIATEK®, we can ensure that we offer a level of product safety that ensures that Swedish snus holds the very highest quality. It is important to communicate this to Sweden’s one million snus users so that everybody can form a comprehensive understanding of what their snus contains and can preferably put this in relation to levels of these substances in other foods to gain a fact-based understanding of snus,” says Johan Lindholm, Laboratory Manager at Swedish Match.

The substances covered by GOTHIATEK® can be divided into seven categories. These are presented below in addition to changes implemented in 2016:

Nitrosamines (NNN+NNK and NDMA)

The limit value for the sum of the nitrosamines NNN and NNK and the limit value for NDMA have been lowered. NNN and NNK are only present in tobacco while NDMA is a volatile nitrosamine present at low levels in various types of foods, especially in smoked meat and fish products and in beverages such as beer and whiskey. For example, 100 grams of fried bacon contains 0.12 micrograms of NDMA, which is equivalent to the content in 17 (x) 24 gram cans of Swedish snus.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (B(a)P)

The limit value for B(a)P has been lowered. B(a)P is a substance in a group of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) that are formed upon incomplete combustion of organic materials.  Grilled and smoked products contain the highest levels of PAHs. It is suspected that that the low levels of B(a)P contained in snus are derived from air pollution where the tobacco is grown, since Swedish Match does not use fire-cured tobacco. For example, 100 grams of barbecued meat contains 0.2 micrograms of B(a)P, which is equivalent to the content in 17 (x) 24 gram cans of Swedish snus.

Metals (arsenic, lead, chromium, cadmium, nickel and mercury)

Heavy metals are elements circulating in nature without having been broken down. They can be found in, for example, soil, but can also occur in air and water. This can lead to plants absorbing heavy metals through their root system, or through the surface of the crop via contamination from the air. By carefully selecting growing sites, heavy metals can be minimized in crops. Lead, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, nickel and mercury are heavy metals that are regulated in GOTHIATEK®. For example, 100 grams of rice contains 9 micrograms of arsenic, which corresponds to the content of 7.5 (x) 24 gram cans of Swedish snus. This year, mercury has been given a limit value in GOTHIATEK®.


Nitrite occurs as salt with potassium or sodium and is found in trace amounts in both plants and animals. Nitrate, which can be converted to nitrite through the impact of bacteria, occurs naturally in plants such as fruits, vegetables and tobacco. For example, 100 grams of broccoli contains 300 micrograms of nitrite, which corresponds to the content in 15 (x) 24 gram cans of Swedish snus.


Agrochemicals are used to protect crops against weeds, fungi and pest infestations during the growing season, but also after harvest. The agrochemical residues found in cultivated vegetables, fruits and tobacco entail no risk to health at levels below the legislated limit values. The levels of agrochemicals remaining post harvest in the tobacco used to manufacture snus in accordance with the GOTHIATEK® standard are generally much lower than the set limits. GOTHIATEK® has limits for agrochemicals in accordance with EU legislation on cereals, fruits and vegetables.

Mycotoxins (aflatoxins and ochratoxin A)

Mycotoxins are mainly found in grain, but also in imported foods, such as nuts. The mycotoxins regulated in GOTHIATEK® are the sum of aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2 and ochratoxin A. The Swedish National Food Agency has set a limit for total aflatoxins in snus, for which GOTHIATEK® has had a limit value in place since 2015, while new for this year is that a limit value has been set for ochratoxin A in GOTHIATEK®. However, measurable levels of aflatoxin do not occur in Swedish Match’s Swedish snus products. Ochratoxin A may be present in cereals, dried fruit and coffee. For example, 100 grams of raisins contains 0.26 micrograms of ochratoxin A, which corresponds to the content in 5 (x) 24 gram cans of Swedish snus. 

Aldehydes (formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and crotonaldehyde)

Formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and crotonaldehyde belong to the group known as volatile aldehydes and are formed, for example, in connection with combustion. Formaldehyde also occurs naturally in many common foods. For example, a pear (150 grams) contain 7,350 micrograms of formaldehyde, which is equivalent to the contents in 48 (x) 24 gram cans of Swedish snus.

Acetaldehyde can be formed in plants and even in the human body as part of normal metabolism. Acetaldehyde occurs naturally in ripe fruit and coffee. For example, a banana (150 grams) contains 1,500 micrograms of acetaldehyde, which corresponds to the content in 5.5 (x) 24 gram cans of Swedish snus. Crotonaldehyde occurs in many foods, but at low levels and usually not in tobacco. As of 2016, all of three of these aldehydes have a limit value in GOTHIATEK®.

Updated limit value table: 

Fact about GOTHIATEK®: 

All comparisons with foods are based on published data for snus from Swedish Match in 2013 and for food from the references below:

1.  The Swedish National Food Agency’s series of reports no 25/2013
2.  EFSA, 2008;
3.  Vår Föda 7/90
4.  SCOOP report 2004
5.  EFSA Journal 2014;12(3):3597
6.  Report from the National Food Administration, Uppsala, Sweden, no. 22/98
7.  Journal of Automated Methods and Management in Chemistry Volume 2011 (2011)

For further information, please contact:
Dr. Johan Lindholm, Director Chemical Analysis & Special Projects, R&D
Tel: +46 76 111 3549