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EFSA highlights food flavouring reservations

By Lorraine Heller , 15-Jul-2010

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has highlighted “reservations” about the safety of certain food flavouring substances, suggesting that further evaluation is needed to confirm that these do not harm human health.

However, this does not mean they are harmful, stressed an EFSA scientific officer, it simply means that more specifications need to be submitted for evaluation.

EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids is conducting an evaluation of some 2,600 food flavourings, which the European Commission will then use to create a uniform list of allowed substances throughout member states.

The latest evaluations, published on Tuesday, refer to certain sulfur-substituted furan derivatives, which had been evaluated since 2000 by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (the JECFA). As part of its assessment, EFSA’s panel was asked to decide whether no further evaluation is necessary, as laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1565/2000.

“These substances are all on the market now, but the aim is to harmonize their regulation across member states,” said Kim Rygaare Nielsin, scientific officer at EFSA.

“We’re asking for more specifications from industry on the flavourings highlighted, and the Commission will then submit a positive list by the end of the year, which will be a list of all flavourings that will be allowed for use,” he told FoodNavigator.com.

More data needed

Out of the 33 substances considered in the present evaluation, EFSA’s panel said it had “reservations” for nine substances, either because of lacking specifications, or because additional toxicity data is required.

For 24 of the 33 substances, EFSA agreed with the JECFA conclusion that the flavourings posed “no safety concern at estimated levels of intake as flavouring substances”.

However, for four substances, EFSA could not identify an adequate No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL), and therefore could not reach a conclusion on the substances’ safety.

In addition, EFSA said that eight of the substances evaluated did not have adequate specifications, including complete purity and identify criteria, and that one substance was missing data on solubility in water.

The panel therefore concluded that more information is needed on the stereoisomeric composition / composition of the mixture of the following eight substances:

  • 13.075 2,6-Dimethyl-3-((2-methyl-3-furyl)thio)heptan-4-one
  • 13.077 3-((2-Methyl-3-furyl)thio)heptan-4-one
  • 13.078 4-((2-Methyl-3-furyl)thio)nonan-5-one
  • 13.153 2-Methyl-3-furyl thioacetate
  • 13.160 2-Methyltetrahydrofuran-3-thiol
  • 13.193 2,5-Dimethyltetrahydro-3-furanthiol
  • 13.194 2,5-Dimethyltetrahydro-3-furyl thio acetate
  • 13.196 4-[(2-Furanylmethyl)thio]-2-pentanone

EFSA also said that additional toxicity data are needed on the following four substances:

  • 13.056 (Difurfuryl sulphide)
  • 13.160 (2-Methyltetrahydrofuran-3-thiol)
  • 13.193 (2,5-Dimethyltetrahydro-3-furanthiol)
  • 13.194 (2,5-Dimethyltetrahydro-3-furyl thio acetate)

To access the full scientific opinion, click here .

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