Sucrose esters of fatty acids are already permitted in the EU, after being assessed in 1992 and assigned the E-number E473. The earlier approval relates to sucrose esters of fatty acids and sucroglycerides from palm oil, lard, and tallow fatty acids.
But Singaporean company Compass Foods applied in 2008 for approval to market sucrose esters from monoesters of lauric acid, mysteristic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. These sucrose esters are produced via a different process, by reacting sucrose and vinyl esters of fatty acids.
This is said to result in very tiny residues of vinyl esters of fatty acid, acetaldehyde, and p-methoxyphenol – but these were not seen to be at a level to raise concern for EFSA’s panel.
EFSA was asked to assess the safety of the sucrose esters produced via this process by the European Commission – as well as whether the go-ahead to use the sucrose esters of fatty acids in water-based beverages would increase total intake levels beyond the current ADI of 40mg/kg. Notably, the sucrose ester of lauric acid was not considered in the evaluation that led to this ADI.
After assessing the evidence, EFSA’s panel concluded that the monosters proposed by Compass Foods would be extensively hydrolysed in the gastrointestinal tract into ocnsituent fatty acids and sucrose before being absorbed.
It found that, as long as the ADI of 40mg/kg is not exceeded, the sucrose esters of fatty acids produced by the new process do not pose a safety issue. However in Ireland, where sucrose esters of fatty acids are used more commonly as a glazing agent for fruits, some consumers could exceed the ADI.
“There is no is no reason to believe that the sucrose monoesters of fatty acids per se produced by the new manufacturing process should in any way have biological or toxicological effects different from those of sucrose monoesters of fatty acids produced by the currently-used manufacturing methods.”
The panel was unconcerned about the lauric acid source, as although there are limited toxicological data on this available, lauric acid is found in quite high levels in a number of foods. In order for the new esters to be permitted, EFSA pointed out that the current specifications would have to be changed to include the sucrose ester of lauric acid.
Moreover, permission would need to be granted for supercritical carbon dioxide to be used as a solvent to make them.