The EU is discussing proposed safety levels for the potentially carcinogenic process contaminant 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol (3-MCPD) and 3-MCPD esters (3-MCPDEs), a Berlin symposium on this topic organised by the German Society for Fat Science (DGF) heard in late May.

According to Frans Verstraete of the European Commission Health and Consumers Directorate-General, there are two proposed levels for vegetable oils and fats and fish oils for the final consumer, or for use as food ingredients:

· 1,250µg/kg for unrefined oils, refined oils and fats from coconut, maize, rapeseed, olives (except olive pomace oil) sunflower, soyabean and palm kernel and mixtures of oils and fats from this category only.

· 2,500µg/kg for other refined vegetable oils (including live pomace oil), fish oil and oils of other marine organisms and mixtures of oils and fats from this category only.

For mixtures of oils and fats from the two different categories, those used as ingredients must comply with the maximum level set for each oil and fat. If the quantitative composition of the mixture is not known, then the sum of 3-MCPDs and 3-MCPDEs should not exceed 2,500µg/kg.

· For vegetable oils and fats destined for baby food and processed cereal-based food for infants and young children and young child formulas, a level of 750µg/kg is being considered.

· For infant formula, follow-on formula and foods for special medical purposes intended for infants and young children (powder) and young child formula, the level proposed in 125µg/kg.

· For infant formula, follow-on formula and foods for special medical purposes intended for infants and young children (liquid) and young child formula, the level proposed is 15µg/kg.

The refining of edible oils can lead to the formation of 3-MCPDs and glycidyl esters (GEs), which have been found to be carcinogenic.

The EU set maximum levels for GEs in February 2018 while the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set a tolerable daily intake for 3-MCPDs in January 2018 of 2µg/kg body weight/day (0.002ppm/kg body weight).

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, set up by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, is also expected to adopt a new Code of Practice in July on how to prevent and reduce 3-MCPDE and GE formation in refined oils and foods made with refined oils.

The EFSA has found that palm oil and fats have the highest levels of 2-MCPD, 3-MCPD (including esters) and GEs among vegetable oils.

The EU’s current maximum limits for GEs and products containing them are:

· 1,000µg/kg for vegetable oils and fats

· 500µg/kg for vegetable oils and fats for the production of baby food and processed cereal-based food for infants and young children

· 75µg/kg until 30 June 2019, then 50µg/kg from 1 July 2019 for powder infant formula, follow-on formula and foods for special medical purposes

· 10µg/kg until 30 June 2019, then 6µg/kg from 1 July 2019 for liquid infant formula, follow-on formula and foods for special medical purposes.

Verstraete said additional GE provisions were also under discussion in the EU, including bringing fish oil and that from other marine organisms within the limits for vegetable oils and fats, and for those used for baby, infant and young children food.