Stakeholder update on rapidly developing policy on food contaminants November 2017

A summary of each issue discussed at European working group meetings is provided below for information.

Glycidyl esters in food

Following the update provided in June 2017, the regulatory measure setting maximum limits (MLs) for Glycidyl fatty acid esters expressed as glycidol for vegetable oils and fats, and infant formula was agreed at the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed on 25th September 2017. Section 4 of the Annex to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 would be replaced by the following table:

Section 4: 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD) and glycidyl fatty acid esters

4.1 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD) Maximum level
(µg/kg)
4.1.1 Hydrolysed vegetable protein (30) 20
4.1.2 Soy sauce (30) 20
4.2 Glycidyl fatty acid esters expressed as glycidol  
4.2.1. Vegetable oils and fats placed on the market for the final consumer or for use as an ingredient in food with the exception of the foods referred to in 4.2.2 1000
4.2.2. Vegetable oils and fats destined for the production of baby food and processed cereal-based food for infants and young children (3) 500
4.2.3. Infant formula, follow-on formula and foods for special medical purposes intended for infants and young children (powder) (3,29)

75 until 30.6.2019

50 as from 1.7.2019

4.2.4. Infant formula, follow-on formula and foods for special medical purposes intended for infants and young children (liquid) (3, 29)

10.0 until 30.6.2019

6.0 as from 1.7.2019 "

This amendment to Regulation 1881/2006 will now go through the usual scrutiny procedure before being formally adopted by the Commission early next year.

Discussion on possible regulatory measures for the control of MCPD esters will commence once EFSA has finalised its reopened opinion, which is expected by end December 2017.

Seaweed Monitoring Recommendation

Following the update in June 2017, the Commission has recently presented a draft Recommendation to monitor metals and (probably iodine) in seaweed and halophytes. Cadmium, arsenic and lead are the proposed metals to be monitored and the recommendation will be directed towards both Member States and also the food industry requesting any date to be submitted to EFSA.  The draft Recommendation may also be extended to seaweed species used in animal feed. The draft Recommendation will be further discussed at the next expert committee meeting. 

Acrylamide

As mentioned in the August 2017 update, the draft European Commission Regulation to reduce acrylamide in food is expected to be adopted by the Commission in November 2017, and published in the Official Journal shortly after. The measure would come into force no sooner than April 2018.  The Commission is planning to develop draft guidance for food business operators on the application of the upcoming Regulation before the end of the year. In particular this is expected to focus on Article 2 of the text which sets out the responsibilities for different types of food business. As part of the future work, the Commission intends to undertake awareness campaigns for both consumers and food business operators on the importance of reducing exposure to acrylamide in food.

DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) and Icaridin

These are chemicals used in insect repellents. There have been reports of residues of both, especially DEET, found in various commodities such as tea, mushrooms and berry fruits. It is thought that it may be due to transfer from pickers using insect repellents for personal protection. Although there is no health risk associated with the levels found, there may be a move to set maximum levels to avoid unintended trade barriers or consignments being held in quarantine while the residues detected are investigated. The request to do this has come from sections of the food industry. We would like to know of any problems encountered by industry relating to DEET. For instance whether consignments have been rejected or held in quarantine as a result of DEET or icaridin residues. Since the maximum levels are likely to be based on actual occurrence we would be interested in any analytical data that may have been collected.  Insect repellents are a Product Type 19 under the Biocidal Products Regulation and we are liaising with colleagues in HSE who are responsible for biocide legislation.

Derogation for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in smoked meat and fish

A previous amendment to Regulation 1881/2006 (Commission Regulation 1327/2014) allows small-scale, traditional smokers of meat and fish to market products (on national territory only) that are compliant with the higher PAH limits that applied from September 2012 rather than the lower limits that came into force in September 2014. The derogation is currently under review. Monitoring in the UK in 2015-2016 did not identify any businesses that needed to take advantage of the derogation and therefore we do not expect UK food businesses to be included in any future derogation.

PAHs in Smoothie Powders

High levels of PAHs have been reported in some powdered products that are added to or are used to make ‘smoothies’. A Member State has asked the Commission how these should be regulated. Limits already exist for dried herbs and spices and food supplements and most of the smoothie powders concerned seem likely to fall within these categories. If so, producers of such powders should ensure that their products comply with the existing limits of 10.0 µg/kg for benzo(a)pyrene and 50.0 µg/kg for PAH4, which are applicable to dried herbs and spices and to various supplements.

Benzene in carrot and cherry juice

A Member State has raised concerns about the level of benzene in carrot juice (formed by the breakdown of carotene during heat treatment) and cherry juice (formed by the breakdown of benzaldehyde). Although there is a low likelihood of limits being set as there are many other sources of benzene exposure, the Commission has asked for any further data. Therefore, we would be grateful for any information about benzene levels in food that could be used in a future discussion.

Anyone wanting to submit any data in relation to the issues mentioned above on DEET or benzene in food please send to: ChemicalContaminants@food.gov.uk