Calcium sorbate, also known as calcium salt, is a fine white crystalline powder used as a preservative as it prevents the growth of microbes, moulds and fungi in food.
All three sorbates were authorised for use in a wide range of foods, including cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, jams, confectionery, cereals, meat and soft drinks.
In 2015, EFSA scientists, which have been systematically re-evaluating all food additives that were authorised for use before January 2009, published a scientific opinion on sorbic acid (E 200), potassium sorbate (E 202) and calcium sorbate (E 203) in 2015.
Due to a lack of data on the genotoxicity of calcium sorbate, however, it was unable to set an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) level.
The European Commission therefore launched a public call for scientific and technological data on all three preservatives in order to fill the gaps but no business operator came forward with relevant genotoxicity data for E 203.
“Without those data the Authority cannot complete the re-evaluation of the safety of calcium sorbate as a food additive and consequently it cannot be determined whether that substance still fulfils the conditions […] for inclusion in the Union list of approved food additives," reads the draft legislation.
“It is therefore appropriate to remove calcium sorbate (E 203) from the Union list of approved food additives.”
However, executive director at the Food Additives & Ingredients Association (FAIA) Michelle Maynard told FoodNavigator, the additive is not being banned because of a health and safety list. Rather, compiling safety data for EFSA to examine is a costly process and suppliers "decided that it wasn't worth it".
"A number of people expressed an interest in the other sorbates and a [testing] programme is now under way for these," she added.
Six months to remove E 203 from food and drink
This regulation is set to enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Food manufacturers in all member states will have six months to remove calcium sorbate from their products after the entry in force.
The regulation was adopted by members of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed.
All three sorbate additives had been previously evaluated by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in 1974 and by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) in 1996, which set a group ADI of 25 mg per kilo body weight per day.
In 2015, EFSA scientists revised this ADI downwards to 3 mg / kg bw/day for sorbic acid and potassium sorbate based on the data it had on reproductive and developmental toxicity. Calcium sorbate, however, was excluded from this ADI.
The main food sources of these additives in European’s diet were bread and rolls, fine bakery wares and flavoured drinks, it said.