Gum rosin not safe as food additive, says EFSA

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European commission, European union, European parliament

A stabilising and emulsifying ingredient derived from gum rosin has received a negative safety opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The European Commission had requested EFSA to evaluate the safety of glycerol esters of gum rosin (GEGR) after receiving a petition to approve the additive for use in certain beverage applications.

According to a petition sent to the Commission in 2008 by a US-based manufacturer of GEGR, Spherix Incorporated, the ingredient is similar in characterisation and technological function to glycerol esters of wood rosin (GEWR), which is currently authorised for use in Europe.

Regulation of emulsifiers

Emulsifiers and stabilisers are classes of food additives regulated under Directive 95/2/EC of the European Parliament and the Council on food additives other than colours and sweeteners.

Under this directive, GEWR can be used in non alcoholic flavoured cloudy drinks and certain cloudy spirits up to a maximum level of 100mg/l. Spherix had requested that GEGR be authorised for use in the same applications.

The firm stated that the component resin acids in the gum rosin, which is derived from living pine trees, are the same as those found in the wood rosin, which is derived from aged pine stumps. The company also maintained that the specifications of purity and technological function for the two substances are identical.

Not enough data

However, in an opinion issued last week, EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) said that there was insufficient data on GEGR and on its similarity to GEWR.

Specifically, the panel said that data was missing on the identify and quantity of individual components in some fractions of GEGR, as was data on the proportions of glycerol monoesters in certain fractions of the ingredient.

In addition, no studies were available on absorption distribution, metabolism and excretion, and on several different forms of toxicity, said EFSA.

The panel said that the available data are too limited to conclude on the safety of GEGR as a food additive at the proposed uses and use levels.

“The Panel concluded that the chemical and toxicological characterisation of GEGR is not adequate and that the absence of toxicological study reports on GEGR prevents the evaluation of the safety of GEGR,”​ it wrote.

“The Panel also concluded that there is not sufficient information to evaluate the chemical equivalence of GEGR and GEWR, and that therefore the toxicological data obtained with GEWR could not be used for read across to GEGR.”

To access the opinion, click here​.

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