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Nitrosamines in food raise a health concern

Consumer exposure Concentration or amount of a particular substance that is taken in by an individual, population or ecosystem in a specific frequency over a certain amount of time. to nitrosamines, compounds that can form in food during its preparation and processing, raises a health concern.

Platter with salami ham

This is the finding of EFSA’s assessment on the public health risk related to the presence of nitrosamines in food. Ten nitrosamines found in food are carcinogenic (can cause cancer) and genotoxic (may damage DNA A complex chain-like molecule that carries the genetic material, present in living organisms and some viruses. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is capable of copying itself and carries the instructions for all the proteins used to create and sustain life.).

EFSA consulted external stakeholders on its draft opinion and the numerous comments received were considered when finalising it.

Potential health risks

EFSA carried out its assessment by evaluating the potential harm caused by nitrosamines to humans and animals and assessing consumer exposure.

Dr. Dieter Schrenk, Chair of the Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain, said: “Our assessment concludes that for all age groups across the EU population Community of humans, animals or plants from the same species., the level of exposure to nitrosamines in food raises a health concern.”

Dr Schrenk added: “Based on animal studies, we considered the incidence The number of new events occurring within a specified time period within a defined geographical area; for example, the number of flu cases per year in Europe. of liver tumours in rodents as the most critical health effect”.

“To ensure a high level of consumer protection, we created a worst-case scenario for our risk assessment  A specialised field of applied science that involves reviewing scientific data and studies in order to evaluate risks associated with certain hazards. It involves four steps: hazard identification, hazard characterisation, exposure assessment and risk characterisation.. We assumed that all nitrosamines found in food had the same potential to cause cancer in humans as the most harmful nitrosamine, although that is unlikely.”

Which foods contain nitrosamines?

Nitrosamines have been found in different types of foodstuffs such as cured meat products, processed fish, chocolate-flavoured drinks [1], beer and other alcoholic beverages. The most important food group contributing to nitrosamines exposure is meat and meat products.

Nitrosamines may also be present in other foods including processed vegetables, cereals, milk and dairy products, or fermented, pickled and spiced foods.

Currently, there are some knowledge gaps about the presence of nitrosamines in specific food categories. Balancing the diet with a wider variety of foods could help consumers to reduce their intake The amount of a substance (e.g. nutrient or chemical) that is ingested by a person or animal via the diet. of nitrosamines.

What happens next?

EFSA’s opinion will be shared with the European Commission, which will discuss with national authorities what risk management The management of risks which have been identified by risk assessment. It includes the planning, implementation and evaluation of any resulting actions taken to protect consumers, animals and the environment. measures are needed.

[1] Edited: 28 November 2023 | The news story was modified changing the word “cocoa” to “chocolate-flavoured drinks”.

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