Camphor is an aromatic substance found in the wood of the camphor laurel tree, and some others in the laurel family. It occurs naturally in herbs like basil, coriander, rosemary and sage, and a chemically-made flavouring is also available, called d-camphor.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the food risk assessor for the European Commission, was asked to give an opinion on the human health implications of d-camphor in the diet.
The opinion was give by the now-dissolved scientific panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food. From the available data, it concluded that d-camphor is “unlikely that acute effects may occur in relation to consumption of foods providing less than 2 mg/kg bw on a single day in any age group”.
The only data on acute exposure that the panel was able to consider came from observations from one EU member state – France. Dietary exposure to camphor from herbs was estimated by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on flavouring substances in 2001; and uses of chemically-defined d-camphor as a flavouring substance was provided by the European Flavour and Fragrance Association and the International Organization of the Flavor Industry.
On the basis of these data, dietary exposure to camphor was estimated to be 1.5 mg/person/day.
There is currently no EU legislation governing maximum permitted levels of d-camphor, plus uncertainty about its actual upper use levels in food and beverages currently on the market and current consumption levels across the bloc.
The panel added the suggestion that “maximum limits should be set to ensure that exposure to camphor does not exceed 2 mg/kg bw on a single day in any age-group”.
The panel said that said that safety aspects of d-camphor in terms of acute toxicity needed to be addressed.
But most of the available acute toxicity data on adults and children originates from accidental ingestion of medications containing camphor. The lethal oral bolus dose is said to lie between 50 and 500 mg/kg bw.
“No acute toxicity was reported following doses below 2mg/kg bw and clinically insignificant signs of toxicity may be seen in sensitive individuals at doses of 5mg/kg bw and higher, whereas clinically manifest toxicity in sensitive persons would require doses higher than 30 mg/kg bw,” wrote the panel in the summary of the opinion.
The panel also estimated potential acute exposure related to consumption of large amounts of certain foods on one day for several age groups.
It was lowest in adults, from 0.14 to 0.34 mg/kg bw according to the commodity, and highest in children under six, from 0.41 to 0.34 mg/kg bw.
The food commodity leading to the highest potential acute exposure for all age groups was fresh cheese.
The full opinion can be found here.
The scientific panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food was dissolved earlier this month and has been replaced by the panel on food additives and nutrient sources added to food (ANS) and the panel on food contact materials, enzymes, flavourings and processing aids (CEF).