The move follows a request from the European Commission (EC) to correct exposure estimates for glycosides added to non-alcoholic flavoured drinks for children after EFSA's Unit on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources (ANS Panel) added to Food expressed concern at potentially excessive intake levels.
As a result the ANS Panel has now published reduced usage levels in 16 foods by a factor of 1.5 to 3, with no changes for 12 food groups. 15 other foods were removed altogether, mainly under the category of ‘desserts and other products’.
However, three new food uses were included in the revised assessment – suggesting some novel uses for stevia in foodstuffs when EU approval is granted. These include smoked, dried, fermented and/or salted fish and fish products using molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms and soybean sauce.
Tabletop sweeteners, a more obvious application for steviol glycosides, comprise the third new category, and EFSA said it now anticipates that such products will contribute more than 10% of the UK’s adult population's overall exposure to steviol glycosides.
Concerns over consumption levels
Mean anticipated dietary exposure to steviol glycosides in European children aged 1-14 years decided on April 14 2010 (based on ADI or acceptable daily intake) ranged from 0.4 to 6.4mg/kg by weight per day as a mean exposure value, and from 1.7 to 16.3mg/kg at the 95th percentile.
But deciding these limits and declaring steviol glycosides safe, EFSA’s ANS Panel expressed concerns at the time that both children and adults would exceed the established ADI levels, and following Member State consultation industrial applicants recently submitted additional data addressing the panel’s safety concerns.
Corrected exposure estimates now ranges from 1 to 12.7mg/kg for children at high intake levels, while adults estimates now stands at 1.9-2.3mg/kg by weight per day (previously 2.2mg to 2.7mg/kg) with high level exposures calculated at 5.6-6.8mg/kg.
EFSA said it used several food consumption databases to arrive at its assessments, including EXPOCHI (which networks food consumption databases on a European level) and the UK NDNS (National Diet and Nutrition Survey) data for children (1995), while adult data was drawn wholly from UK's NDNS survey published in 2002.
Authorisation not pursued
Given the revised assessment, EFSA predicts that the main contributors of steviol glycosides within the adult diet will be non-alcoholic flavoured drinks (also the leading category for children along with desserts including flavoured milk products) tabletop sweeteners, beer and cider.
Intriguingly, EFSA’s decision showed a number of categories where proposed usage levels are described as ‘category removed’, which include mustard, vegetable-, egg-, fat- and cereal-based desserts, prepacked stacks such as savoury starch products and dried nuts, starch-based confectionery and (beverage-wise) cider and perry.
An EFSA spokeswoman confirmed to FoodNavigator.com that this was due to industrial players not pursuing licensing applications for specific products using steviol glycosides, meaning that they will not appear in the near future.
“These applicants were seeking authorisation on usage levels a couple of months ago, but have now withdrawn the relevant applications,” she said.