EFSA reduces tolerable intake level for melamine

The European Food Safety Authority has lowered the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for melamine, a chemical mainly used in the manufacture of certain plastics, as new analysis indicates that it may cause harmful effects to the kidneys at lower levels of intake than previously thought[1].

Applying statistical analysis to the toxicological data which is currently available, EFSA’s expert Panel on contaminants in the food chain (CONTAM Panel) set a new TDI of 0.2 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight. This is in line with the TDI set by the World Health Organisation in 2008.

Small amounts of melamine can migrate into foodstuffs from materials such as melaware plastic cups and dishes. However, exposure data analysed by EFSA’s Panel on food contact materials (CEF Panel) indicated that exposure to melamine through foodstuffs is generally below the TDI.

The opinion recommended that EU limits for the migration of melamine into food should be reconsidered, given that food is not the only source of exposure.

EFSA previously provided scientific advice to the European Commission following the fraudulent contamination of pet food and milk products from China with melamine in 2007 and 2008 respectively[2]. In 2009, the European Commission asked EFSA to re-assess the TDI for melamine and to determine likely levels of background exposure to melamine and related substances for both humans and animals.

[1] The Tolerable Daily Intake is the amount of a substance which can be consumed every day over the course of a lifetime without being expected to cause any adverse health effects.
[2] Melamine contains high levels of nitrogen and has in the past been illegally added to foodstuffs to give the impression of increased protein content.