Previous cargoes of food transport ships evaluated by EFSA

Edible fats and oils can be shipped around the world in containers that are not exclusively reserved for the transport of foodstuffs. However, any substances previously transported in such containers need to be assessed with respect to possible safety concerns. Following a request from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has evaluated the safety of 14 different substances and mixtures that could be transported as cargoes in ship containers which are then used to ship edible fats and oils into the EU[1].

The nine substances and five mixtures/groups of substances in question have a variety of different industrial or agricultural uses. EFSA’s expert Panel on contaminants in the food chain (the CONTAM Panel) assessed their safety as previous cargoes on the basis of criteria which were adopted by the Panel earlier this year.

The Panel considered that six of the substances evaluated (calcium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, hydrogen peroxide, isobutanol, kaolin slurry and fructose) would not be of health concern as previous cargoes for containers used to transport edible fats and oils by sea.

However, the Panel considered that cyclohexanol (often used in the manufacture of nylon and pharmaceuticals), cyclohexanone (used, among other things, in the electronics industry) and 2,3-butanediol (which can be used in printing inks, perfumes and plasticisers) did not meet the criteria for acceptability as previous cargoes because of certain toxicological concerns and/or a lack of data to confirm their safety.

The Panel considered that mixtures of fatty acids and mixtures of fatty alcohols would not cause any health concern as previous cargoes as long as they were derived from edible types of oils and fats. The same conclusion was made for fatty ester mixtures produced from fatty acids and fatty alcohols, or from fatty acids and methanol or ethanol, provided that the fatty ester mixtures come from non-contaminated sources (and do not include oils from waste collection sites, for example).

Finally, the Panel did not have enough information on “epoxidised vegetable oils” to evaluate them as previous cargoes (apart from epoxidised soybean oil, which has already been confirmed as an acceptable previous cargo).

The European Commission asked EFSA to assess these particular substances as they have been put forward for possible inclusion in an international list of acceptable previous cargoes to be discussed in the framework of Codex Alimentarius in the near future.

[1] Hereafter referred to as previous cargoes.

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