Lycopene's use levels as a food colour up for review - EC

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European commission European union Nutrition European food safety authority

Current authorised maximum use levels of lycopene as a food colour are up for review with its use in fortified foods a critical factor, claims the European Commission following the publication of the revised exposure estimates for the cartenoid by EFSA.

Lycopene from natural sources and as a food colour would likely be within the ADI (acceptable daily intake) for most people, concludes the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However it found that due to the use of lycopene in functional foods categories such as bakery, beverages and dressings it could mean that people, and children in particular, would consume more.

A spokesperson for DG Sanco, the European Commission’s health and consumer protection arm, told that any potential amendments will include transitional measures to take into account products currently on the market in which lycopene has been used as a food colour in compliance with Directive 94/36/EC.

Lycopene is a red carotenoid that occurs naturally in certain fruits and vegetables (most notably tomatoes). Lycopene from tomatoes is permitted as a food colour, but synthetic lycopene and lycopene fermented from Blakeslea trispora​ have not been given the green light because of questions over ADI levels.

In its opinion of 30 January 2008, EFSA derived a low numerical ADI of 0.5 mg/kg bw/day for lycopene from all sources, and the risk assessor also concluded that with the uses and actual use levels presented by the applicants, the intake of lycopene from natural sources and as a food colour would be expected to remain within this ADI.

However, this would not hold for the high level intakes by pre-school and school children, and the Commission and member states then considered reductions in the use of lycopene as food colour, notably in drinks which is the main contributor to the lycopene intake, in order to decrease the intake of children so that it remained within the new ADI.

To this end, industry suggested even lower maximum use-levels of lycopene as a food colour, and it was on this basis DG Sanco said that it asked EFSA to carry out this most recent revision of exposure assessment for lycopene, including its use as a novel food ingredient.

The EFSA statement can be read here​.

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