Curcumin not carcinogenic, finds EFSA review

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food additives European union Food additive Food coloring

In its safety review of curcumin as a food colouring substance, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concludes that it agrees with the FAO and WHO findings that the food additive is not carcinogenic.

Following a request from the European Commission to EFSA, its Scientific Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) re-evaluated a scientific opinion on the safety of curcumin (E 100) when used as a food colouring substance.

And the ANS Panel also concluded that curcumin is not genotoxic and set an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 3 mg/kg bw/day based on the NOAEL of 250-320 mg/kg bw/day from a reproductive toxicity study for a decreased body weight gain.

Commission Regulation 1333/2008 sets out that all food additives in use before 20 January 2009 should be subject to a new risk assessment by EFSA. Commission Regulation 257/2010 establishes a programme for the re-evaluation of approved food additives.

According to this programme, food colours are to be evaluated with priority as these were among the first additives to be assessed by the former Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) many years ago. For some colours new studies have become available that need to be taken into account.

The ANS Panel stated that it was not provided with a newly submitted dossier for the curcumin review and said it based its conclusions on previous evaluations, as well as additional literature that became available since then and information received following a public call for data.

Curcumin (E 100) is a dicinnamoylmethane dye authorised as a food additive in the EU and was previously evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the EU Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) in 1975.

The SCF was not able to determine an ADI, but found that curcumin was nevertheless acceptable for use in food. And, in 2004, JECFA then allocated an ADI of 0-3 mg/kg bw/day.

The main contributors to the total anticipated mean exposure to curcumin, according to the EFSA opinion, are bakery products such as Viennoiserie, biscuits, cakes, wafer, as well as desserts including flavoured milk products, non-alcoholic beverages, confectionery and sauces and seasonings.

However, the ANS panel noted in its re-evaluation of curcumin that the aluminium lake of the colour could add to the daily intake of aluminium for which a Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) of 1 mg aluminium/kg bw/week, established in 2008, for high level consumers of products such as panned and compressed confectionery.

And the EFSA panel suggests therefore that specifications for the maximum level of aluminium in the lakes may be required.

Related topics Regulation, policy & food safety

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