The vegetable oils and fats industry has said it is making progress in improving analysis of potential carcinogen 3-MCPD – formed when vegetable fats are heated – after an EFSA report suggested that about 6% of the population could be at risk of overconsumption.
Major vegetable oils and fats trade bodies issued responses after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its preliminary report on 3-MCPD (3-Monochloropropane-1,2-diol) last month outlining the risk that some groups may consume more than the established tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 2 micrograms per kilogram of bodyweight.
In the report, EFSA found that although most population groups consumed less than half the TDI, toddlers and the elderly were particularly at risk of consuming more than the recommended maximum amount. The kidney is the main target organ for 3-MCPD toxicity, according to animal studies, and EFSA found that margarine, vegetable oils and fats, and bread were the biggest dietary contributors of the compound.
No analytical tools for finished products
IMACE, the European Margarine Association, pointed out that 3-MCPD esters occur in the refining process of vegetable oils, and therefore are present in all products containing vegetable fats, not just margarines. It also notes that while there are methods to accurately estimate levels of 3-MCPD esters in refined vegetable oils and fats, currently there are no validated methods to analyse the levels in final food products.
IMACE said in a statement: “Scientists and technologists from academia, food operators and oil suppliers are currently working hand-in-hand towards a better understanding of the formation process of 3-MCPD esters and mitigation measures to lower the level of this compound.
“…Food safety is of utmost concern for our Members. We ensure the quality and the safety of our products, and we have similar expectations from our suppliers. European and national food authorities have not indicated that the levels of 3-MCPD esters in refined vegetable oils and fats are a general public health concern and current intake is within the recommended limit.”
Exploring reduction technologies
FEDIOL, a trade group representing the EU vegetable oil and protein meal industry, noted that the EFSA report was based on data collected from 2009 to 2011, before new validated analytical methods for vegetable oils and fats became available.
“The availability of validated methods from 2012 has enabled our sector to explore technologies to reduce the occurrence levels of 3-MCPD esters and their viability,” it said.
“FEDIOL and its members are committed to food safety and working closely with other stakeholders and competent authorities on this complex issue.”
The American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) also weighed in on the report, inviting collaboration with EFSA “to validate methods so that occurrence and exposure assessment can be as robust as possible”.