Safety of hydroxyanthracene derivatives for use in food
Competing interests: In line with EFSA’s policy on declarations of interest, Panel member Birgit Dusemund did not participate in the development and adoption of this scientific output.
The Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the safety of hydroxyanthracene derivatives and to provide advice on a daily intake that does not give rise to concerns about harmful effects to health. Hydroxyanthracene derivatives are a class of chemical substances naturally occurring in different botanical species and used in food to improve bowel function. The ANS Panel reviewed the available scientific data on a possible relationship between hydroxyanthracene derivatives exposure and genotoxic and carcinogenic effects. On the basis of the data currently available, the Panel noted that emodin, aloe-emodin and the structurally related substance danthron have shown evidence of in vitro genotoxicity. Aloe extracts have also been shown to be genotoxic in vitro possibly due to the presence of hydroxyanthracene derivatives in the extract. Furthermore, aloe-emodin was shown to be genotoxic in vivo and the wholeleaf aloe extract and the structural analogue danthron were shown to be carcinogenic. Epidemiological data suggested an increased risk for colorectal cancer associated with the general use of laxatives, several of which contain hydroxyanthracene derivatives. Considering the possible presence of aloe-emodin and emodin in extracts, the Panel concluded that hydroxyanthracene derivatives should be considered as genotoxic and carcinogenic unless there are specific data to the contrary, such as for rhein, and that there is a safety concern for extracts containing hydroxyanthracene derivatives although uncertainty persists. The Panel was unable to provide advice on a daily intake of hydroxyanthracene derivatives that does not give rise to concerns about harmful effects to health.