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Taiwan to set limits for food contaminant glycidol

2019/11/21 22:07

Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) The Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to establish maximum allowable levels for glycidol, which is classified as probably carcinogenic to humans, in foodstuffs, with the new measure expected to be introduced in the first half of 2020, an FDA official said Thursday.

The FDA's decision came after Control Yuan members Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and Tsai Chung-yi (蔡崇義) urged the government to set limits to the amount of glycidyl (glycidol) fatty acid esters (GEs) from vegetable oils in food. Their call was made in light of the fact that glycidol has been detected in edible oils and fats as well as in foods made using them, such as margarine, baked goods and confectionery products and spreads (chocolate spreads and peanut butter).

In February 2018, the European Union set maximum levels for GEs at up to 1000 µg/kg in specified foods, including vegetable fats and oils.

Regulations regarding chocolate label management published by the FDA under the Ministry of Health and Welfare in June 2016 required only that chocolate contain a certain amount of cocoa, to be called chocolate. However, the regulations do not apply to the majority of chocolate products containing filling or brown chocolate manufactured using large amounts of coconut oil, Tien and Tsai said.

They therefore launched an investigation into the matter and urged the ministry to tighten regulations governing the use of vegetable oil in chocolate, according to Tien and Tsai.

The carcinogenic potential of glycidol is not only in chocolate products but also in all foods made using vegetable oils, Tien and Tsai noted.

Liao Chia-ding (廖家鼎), an FDA official, said that glycidol is a contaminant formed during the industrial processing of foods. Generally, high‐temperature treatment of vegetable oils, such as deodorization and de-acidification are the most important factor for the formation of GEs, he added.

Palm oil contains high levels of GEs and exposure to glycidol does not pose an immediate health hazard to humans but long-term exposure could increase the risk of cancer development, Liao said.

Currently, the United States, Japan and Hong Kong have not yet formulated relevant regulations to set limits on the amount of GEs in edible oils and oil-based/fat-based food products, he added.

To ensure food safety, the FDA is drafting a plan to take the lead in Asia to establish maximum levels for GEs at up to 1000 µg/kg in vegetable oils and fats placed on the market for the final consumer or for use as an ingredient in food, and at up to 500 µg/kg in vegetable oils and fats destined for the production of baby food and processed cereal-based food, according to Liao.

The maximum level for infant formula, follow-on formula and foods for special medical purposes intended for infants and young children, will be set at 50 µg/kg in the case of powder items and 6 µg/kg for liquid items, he said.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Evelyn Kao)Enditem/AW