Risk assessment of beeswax adulterated with paraffin and/or stearin/stearic acid when used in apiculture and as food (honeycomb)

First published in EFSA Supporting Publications
14 May 2020
Type
Technical Report

Abstract

EFSA has established purity criteria and technical specifications for beeswax used in apiculture. The risks to honey bees and humans that are exposed to beeswax adulterated with paraffin and/or stearin/stearic acid and their possible contaminants was assessed. Exposure ofhoney bees may occur via contact or oral routes and ofhumans via consumption of honey contaminated with constituents of adulterated beeswax or honeycomb contained in honey pots. EFSA gathered information from various sources, such asscientific literature and the media (MedISys). From the appraisal and statistical analysis of the classic and advanced methods used for beeswax authentication, it is concluded that purity testing should include at least two physico‐chemical parameters complemented with advanced analytical methods for a reliablysensitive detection (limit of detection<5%) and quantification of beeswax adulterants. Four exposure scenarios were defined for bees. In the absence of toxicological endpoints, it was not possible to reach a conclusion on the risk posed to bees. However, stearin/stearic acidat certain levels can induce detrimental effects on bee brood. Forhumans, the working group considered the exposure to waxes (largely consisting of n‐alkanes and containing hardly any aromatic compounds with more than two aromatic rings) to be of low concern. The consumption of beeswax adulterated withparaffin would result in an increased exposure to certain contaminants for which a potential concern has already been identified, such usmineral oil saturated hydrocarbons.Exposure to food‐gradestearin and its contaminants would not be of concern, although the latter might slightly contribute to the overall exposure to some contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and dioxin‐like polychlorinated biphenyls. Since gaps in knowledge and data were found, recommendations are listed to support future risk assessments on the impact of adulterated beeswax on both humans and bees.

Contact
sc.secretariat [at] efsa.europa.eu
doi
10.2903/sp.efsa.2020.EN-1859
Question Number
On request from
European Commission