Hundreds of flavourings may have to be reassessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) after it emerged that statistical models used to evaluate their safety could be significantly underestimating daily intake levels.
Such models are being used to assess the risk of flavourings before they are added to a positive list being created for approved use across the EU.
Speaking at a recent EU Food Law conference in June, Karl-Heinz Engel, vice-chairman of the EFSA's AFC scientific panel, said that the conventional maximised survey-derived daily intake (MSDI) model "grossly underestimates" intake levels.
A new model, the modified theoretical added maximum daily intake (mTAMDI) approach, showed "huge differences" in the calculated daily intakes from MSDI - in many cases showing intakes up to seven times above the threshold of concern of 540 microgrammes per person per day, he claimed.
This could lead to more reliable exposure data being required on scores of flavourings, together with a reconsideration of substances using the procedure.
As a result, additional toxicological data might also become necessary as well, he warned.
In total, around 2,600 flavouring substances had been or were currently being assessed by different international bodies, said Engel.
About 800 were assessed prior to 2000, another 800 were assessed by a joint expert committee on food additives (JECFA) working for the World Health Organisation, and a further 1,000 were to be assessed by EFSA. EFSA would also need to consider whether the assessments made by JECFA were in line with its own, he added.
The evaluation programme is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.