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Update on furan levels in food from monitoring years 2004-2010 and exposure assessment

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Furan, which can be formed in a variety of heat-treated commercial foods, has been shown to be carcinogenic in animal experiments. The current report provides an update to include all data sampled and analysed between 2004 and 2010 and, in addition to previous reports, presents exposure estimates for different populations. The analysis includes a total of 5,050 analytical results for furan content in food submitted by 20 countries. The highest furan levels were found in coffee with mean values varying between 45 μg/kg for brewed coffee and 3,660 μg/kg for roasted coffee beans. The highest 95th percentile was reported for roasted coffee beans at 6,407 μg/kg. In the non-coffee categories, mean values ranged between 3.2 μg/kg for infant formula and 49 μg/kg for jarred baby food ‘vegetables only‘, the latter also with the highest 95th percentile of 123 μg/kg. Mean furan exposure across surveys was estimated to range between 0.03 and 0.59 μg/kg b.w. per day for adults, between 0.02 to 0.13 μg/kg b.w. per day for adolescents, between 0.04 and 0.22 μg/kg b.w. per day for other children, between 0.05 to 0.31 μg/kg b.w. per day for toddlers and between 0.09 and 0.22 μg/kg b.w. per day for infants. A major contributor to exposure for adults was brewed coffee with an average of 85% of total furan exposure. Major contributors to furan exposure in toddlers and other children were fruit juice, milk-based products and cereal-based products, whereas in addition for toddlers jarred baby foods were major contributors. To reduce uncertainty associated to exposure estimates future testing should preferably target food products where limited results are available.