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Update of results on the monitoring of furan levels in food



Furan is formed in a variety of heat-treated commercial foods and contributes to the sensory properties of the product. Furan has been shown to be carcinogenic in animal experiments. The European Commission requested that Member States collect data on furan concentrations in heat-treated commercial food products to allow a better estimate of dietary exposure. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) summarised the initial findings from the data collection in a 2009 report. The current report brings additional data to the compilation, now covering 4,186 analytical results for furan content in foods sampled between 2004 and 2009 by 18 countries. The highest furan levels were found in solid coffee with mean values varying between 569 μg/kg for instant coffee and 3,611 μg/kg for roasted coffee beans with the highest maximum of 6,900 μg/kg found in roasted ground coffee. In the non-coffee categories mean values ranged between 3.2 μg/kg for ‘infant formula’ and 40 μg/kg for certain ‘baby food’ categories. The highest maximum concentrations for the non-coffee categories were found in ’baby food’ with 224 μg/kg and ‘soups’ with 225 μg/kg. Maximum values exceeding a level of 100 μg/kg were found in cereal products like puffed rise, in fish products such as mackerels and sardines in tomato sauce, in meat products like canned duck with lentils or rabbit with prunes, in soups such as tomato soup and in gravy. Milk based processed food showed low mean furan content. It can be concluded that furan is present in a variety of heat-treated commercial foods for adults and infants. Future testing of furan by Member States should preferably target food products where limited results are available and comprise, if possible, the sample analysed as purchased followed by the same sample analysed as consumed indicating the exact cooking preparation with time, temperature and handling information.

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