Call for scientific data on ethyl carbamate and cyanides in foods and beverages

14 December 2006

EFSA has received a request to provide a scientific opinion on the risks to human health related to the presence of ethyl carbamate in foods and beverages, in particular alcoholic beverages (stone fruit brandies). As hydrogen cyanide and its salts are important precursors for ethyl carbamate formation, possible health risks related to the presence of cyanides should also be considered.

Ethyl carbamate is a compound that can naturally occur in fermented foods and beverages, such as spirits, wine, beer, bread, soy sauce and yoghurt. Therefore, the major source of human dietary exposure to ethyl carbamate is through the consumption of fermented foods and beverages, e.g. as a consequence of its unintentional formation during the fermentation process, distillation or during storage. The most important precursors from ethyl carbamate in stone fruit brandies are hydrogen cyanide or its salts thereof, the cyanides.
At the 64th meeting in February 2005, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) evaluated ethyl carbamate. JECFA concluded that ethyl carbamate is genotoxic and is a multisite carcinogen in all animal species tested and is considered to be a potential carcinogen in humans.

Request to Member States:

In order to facilitate EFSA´s risk assessment on ethyl carbamate in foods and beverages, data from 2000 onwards on levels of ethyl carbamate and cyanides in foods and beverages, particular alcoholic beverages such as stone fruit brandies, would be highly appreciated. Available data on the presence of ethyl carbamate and cyanides in foodstuffs and beverages should contain following information: type of product, country of origin, year of sampling, analytical results (including non-detected, non-quantified), the method of analysis used and the limit of detection, and/or the limit of quantification for non-positive results.
If available, EFSA would welcome the data by 15 December 2006.
Data should be sent via email to stefan.fabiansson [at]

Stefan Fabiansson
European Food Safety Authority
Scientific Expert Services
E-mail: stefan.fabiansson [at] (stefan.fabiansson[a]
Tel: +39-0521-036-446
Fax: +39-0521-036-546
24 September 2006