European Commission to give 4-methylbenzophenone the ‘all clear’

Related tags Food safety European union

The chemical 4-methylbenzophenone (4MBP) poses no long-term health risk at currently reported levels and is likely to be given the all clear by the European Commission (EC).

The proposed move from the Commission goes even further than the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) opinion delivered last week that short-term consumption of breakfast cereal containing 4MBP posed no risk to human health. The food safety watchdog had added that a further risk assessment could be necessary if the substance, which is used in the ink on some food packing, continued to be employed in the long-term.

No need for future 4MBP review

But the EC has now said it believes there is no need to conduct any further scrutiny of 4MBP after carrying out a review of the implications of continued use of the chemical and canvassing member states. The Commission launched the probe after German and Belgian food safety bodies found the substance had migrated from packaging into breakfast cereals earlier this year.

The EC said the original announcements on the seriousness of 4MBP contamination in February were based on acceptable levels for the chemical benzophenone set in 1992 – which EFSA describes as “very cautious”. ​After conducting its review last week, EFSA decided to treble the Tolerable Daily Intake for benzophenone to 0.03mg per kilogram of bodyweight, an EC official said.

However, while 4MBP is believed to pose no threat to health, countries have agreed to encourage firms to limit or phase out its use, said the Commission.

All clear

An EC official told “4MBP has been given the all clear. There is no risk anymore. Member states have agreed to encourage companies to minimize use of the ink that contains the chemical or utilize packaging where the ink is unable to leach through.”

Consequently, there is no need for a further risk assessment, the official added.

She explained the food scare issue in February arose because cereal manufacturers and packaging companies “were not talking to each other​”. The food manufacturers were bagging the breakfast snacks in material that did not form an impermeable barrier to the chemical contained in the ink on the packaging. Part of the Commission’s initiative is to push for better communication between the two.

The issue will be discussed at the EC’s Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) later this month.

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