3-MCPD (3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol), a chemical which may be formed in foods by the reaction of chloride with lipids, can occur in foods and food ingredients as a result of processing, migration from packaging materials during storage, or in domestic cooking.
Specifically Brussels is seeking feedback on draft maximum levels of 3-MCPD in HVP and soy sauces that involve acid-hydrolysis in the production processes, or where products from acid-hydrolysis might be present in the sauce.
The market for yeast extract based flavour enhancers has been growing in parallel to the waning popularity of HVPs.
Food makers are increasingly moving away from including HVPs in their formulations and towards yeast extract flavour enhancers, driven by concerns that acid-hydrolysed HVP, produced using hydrochloric acid, could be potentially carcinogenic due to the 3-MCPD levels.
Since April 2002 Europe has operated a maximum level of 0.02 mg/kg for 3-MCPD in HVP and soy sauce, a level set when 3-MCPD was originally considered to be a genotoxic (DNA changing) carcinogen.
Subsequent risk assessments have concluded that 3-MCPD is carcinogenic, but not genotoxic.
In view of the apparent lower risk the maximum level was reviewed.
"However, enforcement activities showed that 3-MCPD levels above this value tend to be very much higher and appear to be a result of bad practice," says the Commission.
No information has come forward to show that following good practice a level greater than 0.02 mg/kg is necessary, the executive concludes.
The Commission claims the recent collection of data and estimates of dietary intake by EU member states "confirm that 0.02 mg/kg would protect consumers and help ensure that soy sauces do not contribute significantly towards the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 2 µg/kg body weight, derived by the Scientific Committee on Food in 2001."
Moreover, at 0.02 mg/kg 3-MCPD, the levels of associated chloropropanols - the family of chemical contaminants to which 3-MCPD belongs - are generally very low and would not require separate maximum levels, adds Brussels.
Comments are needed ahead of the meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants, 38th Session in The Netherlands in April 2006.