During the last days, the recent ”Re-evaluation of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471) as food additives” conducted by an EFSA panel has attracted attention also in food magazines and websites. Previously on this blog, the US FDA evaluation of various emulsifiers was discussed and in that context it was mentioned that other studies are pending.
Now, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) has provided a scientific opinion re-evaluating the safety of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids (E 471). It is concluded that “no evidence for adverse effects was reported in short-term, subchronic studies, chronic, reproductive and developmental toxicity studies. Neither carcinogenic potential nor a promotion effect in initiation/promotion was reported. The available studies did not raise any concern with regard to genotoxicity.”
Moreover, the panel found that there is “no need for a numerical acceptable daily intake (ADI) and that the food additive mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids (E 471) was of no safety concern at the reported uses and use levels.”
However, the panel does point to the need for modifying some of the current EU specifications for E471. Here, it is specifically proposed to lower the acceptable level of toxic elements such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. Also, the specification should be revised to further secure that E471 is not contaminated during production with any of the trace impurities that can be found in the raw materials or with any processing aids such as for instance solvents. The panel also call for more data to “decrease the uncertainty about the occurrence of compounds of toxicological concern”, i.e. 3-MCPD and glycidyl esters. Finally, the panel proposes to lower the limits for trans fatty acids and for erucic acid since these can be constituents of the oils used in manufacturing E471.
Clearly, there will constantly be new, scientific studies helping us to better understand where improvements are needed. This is the only way to make sure that food ingredients are not only safe – but most importantly, constantly getting safer.