EFSA Expert Group looks at semicarbazide: too early for any conclusions

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been informed by industry that scientific analysis indicates that semicarbazide (SEM) may have been found in some plastic sealing gaskets used in lids of glass jars and in some packaged foods. These gaskets are used in a very wide range of foods in jars including fruit juices, jams and conserves, honey, baby food, pickles and sterilized vegetables, mayonnaise, mustard, sauces, and ketchup.

Investigations to date, have indicated that the most likely explanation is that the presence of SEM (provided its formation is not a consequence of laboratory analysis) could be linked to azodicarbonamide, a common foaming agent that has been in use for many years. As a result of the information from industry, EFSA’s Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food convened an Expert Group on 24th July to look more closely at the situation.

The conclusion of the Experts Group’s initial meeting was that in view of the uncertainties in both the analytical and toxicological aspects, it is premature to give risk assessment advice given the work planned and underway.

Industry will be considering further studies to confirm or otherwise the presence of SEM and to determine the scope for minimising the potential risk.

EFSA itself will initiate short term genotoxicity studies as there are currently insufficient data to draw a conclusion in the view of the Expert Group. EFSA will continue to provide public information as the studies progress and on the views of the Expert Group in the light of these results.