Food standards body finalises opinion on cereal packaging chemical

Posted by Isobel Drake on 12th June 2009

The European Food Safety Authority expert Panel on food contact materials sees no health risks from the short-term consumption of breakfast cereals contaminated with
4-methylbenzophenone at levels reported earlier this year. The Panel reached its conclusions after re-assessing the toxicological data on the similar substance, benzophenone. However, the Panel confirmed that should the use of 4-methylbenzophenone continue, more data would be needed for a full risk assessment.Benzophenone and 4-methylbenzophenone are chemicals used in printing inks for food packaging. In February 2009, the European Commission asked EFSA for urgent advice on the risks to human health following the discovery of 4-methylbenzophenone in certain breakfast cereals. The Commission also asked EFSA to evaluate whether the existing Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone could also be applied to 4-methylbenzophenone, and to re-assess the TDI for benzophenone and hydroxybenzophenone by the end of May 2009.

The Panel considered the safety threshold for benzophenone which was used as the basis of EFSA’s urgent advice to the Commission in March to be very cautious, as it was based upon reversible changes reported in experimental animals as a result of their exposure to benzophenone rather than adverse effects as such. However, the Panel considered that this approach was reasonable given the lack of data available and the short deadline.

Based on a higher threshold which the Panel considered to represent the intake level beyond which benzophenone may cause adverse health effects, the Panel determined a new TDI for benzophenone of 0.03mg per kilogram of bodyweight.