The dairy industry is intensifying efforts to convince the European Commission not to "waste everyone's time" with proposals to introduce safety limits on cadmium in milk.

The EC is in the process of reviewing existing maximum levels for cadmium, a heavy metal found in the natural environment, ­following guidance from EFSA that cadmium levels in food should be reduced. Exposure to cadmium can lead to kidney problems and bone damage.

There are already cadmium safety limits for many foods, including meat and fish as well as some vegetables, but milk has not been associated to date with significant cadmium levels.

Under EC proposals, however, even though significant levels of cadmium have never been found in milk, there could soon be a limit of 0.005mg/kg for raw and pasteurised milk as well as milk used for the manufacture of milk products. Other foods facing potential new or reduced cadmium limits include infant formula and cereals-based foods for babies and toddlers.

In its consultation on the proposals, the FSA said there was pressure for cadmium limits in food to come down in light of EFSA's opinion, "but the agency is keen that any reductions in limits should be practicable, set on good evidence and benefit the consumer."

Ed Komorowski from Dairy UK said there was no evidence of significant cadmium levels in milk, and that it was "unfortunate" that the EC's list of foods to be given cadmium levels included milk.

Dairy companies would have to spend significant time and money to test products for cadmium, and authorities would have to do the same if cadmium limits on milk were set.

Komorowski said he was hopeful milk would disappear from the list, but added the industry could not be "confident" at this stage.

The EC sent out a letter at the end of May, asking for views on the proposal to be submitted by the end of June. An expert group will then meet in October to further debate the issue.