The International Olive Council (IOC) has informed the EU that the threshold for safely consuming the potentially carcinogenic process contaminant 3-monochloropropane diol ester (3-MCPDE) is 1.25mg/kg.

The IOC wrote in its June newsletter that the EU was in the process of revising safety standards on the tolerable intake of 3-MCPDEs.
There were two proposed levels for vegetable oils and fats and fish oils for the final consumer - 1.25mg/kg or 2.5mg/kg, as some oils and fats showed lower or higher levels of 3-MCPDEs.

So far, the EU did not have enough data for olive oils and there would have been a risk of olive oils being included in the 2.5 mg/kg group, the IOC said.

The IOC said data submitted by experts and member countries provided reliable information about different grades of olive oils and olive pomace oils, which allowed the organisation’s executive secretariat to give its recommendation to the EU.

“In particular, the data showed that virgin olive oils do not contain any quantifiable amount of 3-MCPDEs, thanks to the absence of the refining process.”

The refining of edible oils at 200C or higher can produce 3-MCPDEs. Studies have shown that 3-MCPDEs are non-genotoxic carcinogens (chemicals capable of producing cancer not related to direct gene damage) with effects on the kidney and male reproductive organs.

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 formation in refined oils and foods made with refined oils.