Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs make up a group of chemicals that are formed during incomplete combustion of organic materials. Benzo(a)pyrene (B(a)P) is one of many identified PAHs. Sweets, cereals, fats and smoked foods are the largest single sources of B(a)P among ordinary food. Grilled and smoked products contain the highest levels of PAHs, while cereal products and spreads containing low levels. Aquatic animals such as clams and lobsters may contain high levels of PAH if they live in polluted water. B(a)P is found in low levels in fire-cured tobacco, but also in trace amounts in other tobaccos where it is derived from pollution in the air.
Long-term exposure to high doses of several of the PAHs can interfere with the hormonal system and damage the immune system, liver and kidneys. WHO has classified B(a)P as a carcinogen.
Swedish snus and foodstuffs
100 g of grilled meat contains 0.2 micrograms of B(a)P, which is equivalent to the content in 17 (x) 24 g cans of Swedish snus.
The Swedish Food Agency has introduced a limit value for the content of B(a)P in snus and chewing tobacco. Over time, B(a)P has been reduced in snus from Swedish Match. When GOTHIATEK was introduced, the standard comprised a limit value for B(a)P, which was in 2012 lowered to the same limit as recommended by WHO. In 2016 the GOTHIATEK limit was further lowered.
The current limit value for B(a)P in the GOTHIATEK-standard is lower than both the limit value regulated by the Swedish Food Agency and the limit value recommended by WHO for smokeless tobacco products.