The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has expressed safety concerns over the use of two smoke flavourings in food as it publishes the first in a series of risk assessments into smoked flavour products.
EFSA’s panel on food contact materials, enzymes, flavourings and processing aids (CEF) has concluded that the flavouring products Unismoke and Zesti Smoke Code 10 could pose a risk as “there were insufficient margins of safety between estimated exposure to the two flavouring products and intake levels above which they may cause adverse health effects”.
One other flavouring product has also been assessed, Smoke Concentrate 809045, but EFSA concluded that there was no safety concern as “the margins of safety for were wide enough”.
However, Klaus-Dieter Jany, the Chair of the CEF Panel, said: “In all three cases, the Panel considered that studies were sufficient to remove concerns over genotoxicity – in other words, damage to the genetic material of cells.”
The European Commission asked EFSA to assess the safety of smoke flavourings which are used or intended for use in the EU in order to draw up a list of authorised flavouring products. The panel is due to publish opinions on eight further smoke flavouring applications by the end of this year.
Smoking is used to help preserve foods as well as change the flavour of foods.
EFSA looked at cumulative exposure to the different flavouring products in different categories of food, based on proposed uses and use levels supplied by the manufacturers.
Its exposure estimates indicated that exposure mainly arises for Unismoke through meat and meat products, as well as soups and sauces.
For Zesti Smoke Code 10 it is through meat and meat products, fish and fish products, composite foods, such as casseroles and meat pies, and processed fruits and vegetables.
For Smoke Concentrate 809045 it is through meat and meat products, soups, sauces, protein products and ready-to-eat savouries. The applicant for this product was Symrise GmbH & Co. KG.
The Unismoke applicant was Unilever Foods Netherlands and the Zesti Smoke applicant was Mastertaste.
Potential health impact
An EFSA spokeswoman told FoodNavigator.com that the effects of Unismoke reported on animals included changes in kidney weight and changes in the blood.
The results for Zesti smoke showed changes in liver and kidneys and reduced body weight gain.
She added that these were indications of possible adverse health effects but stressed that the tests were carried out on rats, when there was exposure above certain intake levels, not on humans.
However, due to the absence of data on reproduction and developmental toxicity and the lack of long-term studies on these two flavouring products, the CEF Panel concluded that in these two cases the uses and use levels specified by their manufacturers would require larger margins of safety.
The spokeswoman said that all the products being assessed could be in use in Europe as legislation for smoke flavouring was not harmonised at an EU level.
However, the European Commission is drawing up the list of smoke flavouring which can be used in the EU, on the basis of the risk assessments being carried out by EFSA.