EUROPE – The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) evaluation of eight smoke flavorings widely used in the European Union (EU) market has unveiled significant concerns regarding genotoxicity, the potential to damage genetic material in cells.

The eight smoke flavorings, present in the EU market for a decade, underwent a comprehensive reassessment as part of the regular review mandated by EU legislation.

Originally assessed between 2009 and 2012, these products faced safety concerns during their initial evaluation due to an insufficient margin of safety at proposed usage levels.

Subsequently, applicants were required to revise usage levels before obtaining approval for market distribution.

Smoking is a method traditionally used to help preserve certain foods such as fish, meat, and dairy products. The smoking process also changes the flavour of foods.

As an alternative to traditional smoking, smoke flavourings may be added to foods to give them a smoky flavour. They can also be added to foods which are not traditionally smoked such as soups, sauces, or confectionery.

Smoke flavourings are produced by a wood-burning process called pyrolysis.

EFSA’s recent safety assessment, utilizing an updated methodology, revealed lingering concerns about genotoxicity for all eight smoke flavorings.

Genotoxicity, indicative of a substance’s ability to damage genetic material and potentially elevate the risk of conditions like cancer and inherited diseases, raised alarm bells in the evaluation.

Notably, EFSA’s new methodology recommends considering an entire mixture genotoxic if any single component is confirmed as such.

Six flavorings flagged

Of the eight assessed smoke flavorings, EFSA concluded that six contain genotoxic substances, heightening safety concerns.

For the remaining two, safety concerns could not be definitively ruled out due to insufficient data.

The flavorings include SF-001 “proFagus Smoke R714” (previously named “Scansmoke PB 1110”)  ; SF-002 “Zesti Smoke Code 10; SF-003 “Smoke Concentration 809045”; SF-004 “Scansmoke SEF7525”; SF-005 “SmokeEx C-10”; SF-006 “SmokEz Enviro-23”; SF-008 “proFagus Smoke R709”; SF-009 “Fumokomp Conc.” (previously named “Fumokomp”).

The assessment, using a conservative approach, acknowledges the potential elevated risk associated with consuming genotoxic substances but highlights the complex interplay of factors, including individual genetics and dietary habits, in determining the likelihood of harmful effects.

Unexplored terrain

While EFSA has not specifically investigated the likelihood of harmful effects arising from the consumption of foods containing these smoke flavorings, the agency underscored its conservative approach in assessments.

By considering worst-case scenarios to estimate hazards and risks, EFSA ensures a cautious stance in safeguarding public health.

The findings prompt a call for increased vigilance and further research into the potential health implications of these widely used smoke flavorings.

As regulatory bodies and industry stakeholders navigate the complexities of food safety, the focus on understanding the nuanced risks associated with these additives becomes crucial.

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