The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is expected to adopt a new Code for Practice in July for the reduction of 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol esters (3-MCPDEs) and glycidyl esters (GEs) in refined oils and food products made with refined oils, a German symposium on the topic heard on 21-22 May.

3-MCPDEs and GEs are carcinogenic processing contaminants formed during refining of edible oils, particularly palm oil.

The Berlin symposium, organised by the German Society for Fat Science (DGF), heard that the CAC would be adopting the new Code of Practice (COP) at its 42nd session in Geneva, Switzerland on 8-12 July. This follows its approval by the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food (CONTAM) in Indonesia earlier in May.

According to the COP due for adoption, refining of edible oils at temperatures above 200C could produce 3-MCPDE and GEs.
Factors such as climate, soil and growth conditions, and harvesting techniques all affected the level of the contaminants’ precursors, such as acylglycerols and chlorine-containing compounds.
“3-MCPDE forms primarily from the reaction between chlorine containing-compounds and acylglycerols like triacylglycerols (TAGs), diacylglycerols (DAGs), and monoacylglycerols (MAGs),” the COP said. “GE forms primarily from DAGs or MAGs.”

“This Code of Practice intends to provide national and local authorities, producers, manufacturers and other relevant bodies with guidance to prevent and reduce formation of 3-MCPDE and GE in refined oils and food products made with refined oils.”
The guidance would focus on good agricultural and manufacturing practices, and selection and uses of refined oils in food products made from these oils.

These included minimising fertilisers, pesticides and water with excessive amounts of chlorine-containing compounds to reduce chlorine uptake by fruits and seeds; minimising handling of palm fruits to reduce bruising and prevent formation of free fatty acids (FFA); and sterilising palm fruits at temperatures below 140C to inactivate lipase activity. (Lipases interact with oil from mature palm fruits to rapidly degrade TAGs into FFAs, DAGS and MAGs).
Other potential mitigation measures included:

· Using milder and less acidic conditions during degumming, with a lower temperature.

· Using chemical refining as an alternative to physical refining.

· Using greater amounts of bleaching clay in vegetable and fish oils or more pH neutral clays to reduce acidity in palm oils, some seed oils and fish oils.

· Deodorising oils at reduced temperatures; or conducting dual deodorisation as an alternative to traditional deodorisation.

Click here for the full Code of Practice

The CAC was set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to protect consumer health and ensure fair practices in the international food trade. Its Code of Practices are voluntary but the WTO recognises them as international reference points for trade disputes concerning food safety and consumer protection