Europe’s food safety body has warned nitrosamine organic compounds pose a health risk to humans and plans to work with the bloc’s legislator on a solution.
An assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) identified ten nitrosamines found in food that are carcinogenic and genotoxic, meaning they can potentially cause cancer and damage DNA, respectively.
The EFSA said the compounds can be formed during the preparation and processing of food, with meat and related products the most exposed to nitrosamines. They were also found in processed fish, processed vegetables, cereals, milk and dairy products. Fermented, pickled and spiced foods, along with cocoa, beer and other alcoholic drinks were also identified.
“EFSA’s opinion will be shared with the European Commission, which will discuss with national authorities what risk management measures are needed,” it said in a statement dated 28 March.
Just Food has approached FoodDrinkEurope, an industry representative for manufacturers, for its reaction to the findings.
Chris Elliott, a professor of food safety at Queen’s University Belfast, took to Twitter to repeat his call for a ban on nitrosamines.
Dr. Dieter Schrenk, a professor at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern in Germany and chair of the EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain, concluded the risks from nitrosamines applies to all age groups.
He said: “Based on animal studies, we considered the incidence of liver tumours in rodents as the most critical health effect. To ensure a high level of consumer protection, we created a worst-case scenario for our risk assessment. We assumed that all nitrosamines found in food had the same potential to cause cancer in humans as the most harmful nitrosamine, although that is unlikely.”
However, the EFSA acknowledged there are “knowledge gaps” around the presence of the compounds in certain foods.