Cereal packaging ink poses slight risk to children: EFSA

Posted by Isobel Drake on 5th March 2009

The European Food Safety Authority has reported that a chemical used in the printing ink on some cereal packaging is not desirable but appears to pose few risks.

Cereal Aisle

The EFSA conducted the research following a request for rapid advice from the European Commission, after Belgium and Germany asked for an assessment. The Authority noted that some cereal products had been withdrawn based on the concerns.

“Although the migration of 4-methylbenzophenone from packaging into foods is not desirable, only in the highest exposure scenario considered – regular consumption of products contaminated at the highest levels reported so far – could some children possibly be at risk,” Riitta Maijala, EFSA’s Director of Risk Assessment, said. “However, there are important limitations in our knowledge and understanding of 4-methylbenzophenone and further data and analysis would be needed to be able to fully assess its safety.”

Based on the limited exposure data available and applying knowledge on the toxicity of a similar substance, benzophenone, EFSA concluded that short term consumption of contaminated breakfast cereals should not pose a risk to most people. However, if the contamination of food through the use of 4-methylbenzophenone in printing inks for food packaging were to continue, more data would be needed in order to carry out a full risk assessment.

Due to the lack of data available, EFSA was not able to fully assess consumer exposure to 4-methylbenzophenone or its toxicological effects in humans. However, given its chemical structure and toxicity studies on benzophenone, EFSA concluded that 4-methylbenzophenone is likely to be a carcinogen but should not raise concerns with regard to genotoxicity (i.e. should not cause damage to DNA, the genetic material of cells).

In response to a specific question from the Commission, EFSA concluded that there was not enough scientific evidence to be able to apply the previously established group TDI (Tolerable Daily Intake) for benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone to 4-methylbenzophenone. EFSA is due to review the TDI for benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone by the end of May 2009.

To find out more please go to: www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1211902360993.htm