No risk in short term from 4-methylbenzophenone, says EFSA

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European food safety European commission Efsa

The short-term consumption of breakfast cereals contaminated with previously reported levels of the 4-methylbenzophenone (4MBP) poses no risk to human health, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said.

The European food safety watchdog delivered its verdict yesterday on the chemical, which is used in printing inks for food packaging, but said further study may be necessary if the substance continued to be employed.

An EFSA spokesman told “We were not aware that 4MBP was being widely used in food packaging before it was flagged up in March. If companies continue to use it, then a more in-depth risk assessment may be needed.”

The body carried out the risk assessment after the spotlight fell on the chemical following a spate of contamination incidents earlier this year. In February, the German authorities notified the European Commission (EC) of the migration of 4MBP from packaging into certain cereal products at a concentration of 798 micrograms/kg. The Belgian Authorities also provided data later the same month, reporting concentrations of the chemical in cereals up to 3729 μg/kg.

The EC’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) subsequently set a maximum level for the presence of 4MBP at 0.6mg/kg of food.

EFSA’s CEF panel, which examines food contact materials, reached its latest conclusion after re-assessing the toxicological data on the similar substance, benzophenone. The panel was also tasked with evaluating whether the existing Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone could also be applied to 4MBP. It also examined the case for re-assessing the TDI for benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone.

An EFSA statement said: “The Panel considered the safety threshold for benzophenone which was used as the basis of EFSA’s urgent advice to the Commission in March to be very cautious, as it was based upon adaptive (i.e. reversible) changes reported in experimental animals as a result of their exposure to benzophenone rather than adverse effects as such. However, the Panel considered that this approach was reasonable given the lack of data available and the short deadline.”

The CEP members decided it was necessary to set a new TDI for benzophenone of 0.03mg per kilogram of bodyweight. This was based on a higher threshold which the panel considered to represent the intake level beyond which benzophenone could be harmful. Hydroxybenzophenone has been excluded from this TDI due to a lack of data, added the experts.

Related topics Food safety & quality

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