EFSA on caramel colours: Consumer exposure lower than previously estimated

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

Consumer exposure to caramel colours lower than previously estimated
Consumer exposure to three caramel colours used in a variety of food and drink applications is ‘considerably lower’ than a 2011 scientific opinion published by EFSA suggested, says the Authority.  

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has revised its estimate of consumer exposure to three caramel colours (E 150a, E 150c, E 150d) used in a variety of foods and beverages, after new data on industry usage and consumption helped the scientific risk assessor to come to a better estimate.

Using new data on the levels of three caramel colours (E 150a, E 150c, E 150d) as they are used in food and drinks as well as new consumption data, EFSA has now concluded that consumer exposure to these colours “is considerably lower than that expressed in the Authority’s 2011 scientific opinion.”

“In that opinion, the Panel concluded that the anticipated dietary exposure of child and adult populations may exceed the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for caramel colours E 150a, E 150c and E 150d, but exposure estimates to E 150b were below the ADI,”​ said EFSA, adding that the new data has allowed it to revise its findings.

“The estimated combined exposure to the four caramel colours (E 150a, E 150b, E 150c, E 150d) are considerably lower and the group ADI of 300 mg/kg bw/day is not exceeded for any population group in the current review.”

Caramel exposure

In its 2011 opinion, EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS Panel) carried out a total re-evaluation of the safety of the three caramel colours plus one other (E 150b); and established acceptable daily intake limits (ADIs) for their use in food.

At the time the ANS Panel said that given their similar chemical properties and uses in food, a group ADI of 300 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg bw/day) for combined exposure to all four caramel colours should be set.

Based on the limited information available at the time, that 2011 opinion went on to say that it was possible that the use of caramel colours in foods may lead to exposures in excess of the ADIs.

However, in its new statement, EFSA has refined its estimate of likely exposure to caramel colours in food based on new data.

EFSA said the new 2012 data has been provided by industry information on usage of the colours in products, in conjunction with consumption data from the EFSA Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database. 

"The results of the current exposure assessment for caramel colours E 150a, E 150c and E 150d and combined exposure to the four caramel colours are considerably lower than those of the original opinion,"​ said the updated EFSA opinion.

Related topics: Policy, Flavours and colours

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