Flavouring substance raises safety concerns

The flavouring substance 3-acetyl-2,5-dimethylthiophene is genotoxic (that is, it can damage DNA, the genetic material of cells) and therefore a safety concern for human health. Genotoxic substances should not be intentionally added to the food chain. In the coming days, EFSA’s scientific advice will help to inform EU risk managers’ decisions regarding the possible removal of 3-acetyl-2,5-dimethylthiophene from the EU list of authorised flavouring substances.

3-Acetyl-2,5-dimethylthiophene is used as a flavouring to give food a burnt nutty flavour and can also occur naturally in boiled and cooked meats. The substance is produced by a small number of manufacturers and present in a limited number of foods, mainly some savoury products, confectionaries and fine bakery wares. Overall usage is low (total annual use in the EU is reported to be 2.3 kg). While no exposure assessment has been carried out by EFSA, the possible risk to consumers who may have been exposed to this substance in food is expected to be very small.

Since it began evaluating food flavourings in 2003, EFSA has requested additional data from industry on hundreds of flavouring substances authorised for use in the EU. The opinion of the Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids published today is a result of a previous request by EFSA for additional data.

Notes to editors

The European Union list of flavourings authorised for use in foods in the EU entered into force in October 2012. Since 2003, EFSA has played an important part in preparing this list by evaluating the safety of thousands of flavouring substances. Over 2,000 flavouring substances have been deemed fit for inclusion in the EU list. This significant programme of scientific work, which is still ongoing, has played and continues to play a critical role in ensuring that flavouring substances used in foods are of no safety concern for consumers.

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