Maximum levels for 3-MCPD
3-Monochloropropane-1,2-diol (3-MCPD), 2-Monochloropropane-1,3-diol (2-MCPD) and their fatty acid esters, as well as glycidyl fatty acid esters are processing contaminants that can be generated while producing and processing food products from natural ingredients. Free 3-MCPD and free 2-MCPD can be formed when foods containing both fat and salt are exposed to high temperatures during the production process. This is often the case for food products that are baked, toasted, or smoked. The ester-bound forms (2-MCPD, 3-MCPD, and glycidyl fatty acid esters) mainly arise in the process of refining vegetable oils and fats. The refining process often involves heat treatment in order to remove unpleasant and bitter flavors and odors (deodorizing). In this case, the MCPD and glycidyl fatty acid ester content depends on both the intensity of the refining process and the raw material itself. A summary of the occurrence data for these compounds in food can be found in the report published by the European Food Safety Authority in 2016. According to this report, fatty acid esters were not only identified in vegetable oils and cooking fats, but also in the foods produced from them, such as margarine, baked goods, fried food products, snacks, as well as baby formula.
Since 3-MCPD fatty acid esters were first detected in refined vegetable fats in the year 2007, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has issued multiple assessments of the health risks posed by food containing these processing contaminants. Both in 2016 and in 2018, EFSA also investigated the potential risks that food containing 2-MCPD and 3-MCPD and their fatty acid esters and glycidyl fatty acid esters pose to human health, carrying out exposure estimates for various demographic groups. Based on findings regarding developmental and reproduction toxicity, EFSA determined a tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 2 μg/kg bodyweight per day for 3-MCPD and its fatty acid esters. A legal maximum level for free 3-MCPD in hydrolyzed plant protein and soy sauce was already defined back in 2006 in the Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006. On February 26th, 2018, the European Commission published the Regulation (EU) 2018/290 amending Regulation (EC) 1881/2006, defining maximum levels for glycidyl fatty acid esters (referred to as glycidol) in vegetable oils and fats as well as in infant formula and follow-on formula. In October 2018, the EU Commission submitted a recommendation for a regulation with maximum levels for 3-MCPD fatty acid esters in vegetable fats and oils, fish oils, as well as in infant formula and follow-on formula. However, this proposition has not yet been finalized. Since there is insufficient toxicological data, it hasn’t been possible to carry out a risk assessment for 2-MCPD and its esters, which is why maximum levels for these compounds are not currently being discussed. Instead, they should be managed according to the ALARA principle (as low as reasonably achievable).
Testing for 3-MCPD and its fatty acid esters as well as for glycidyl fatty acid esters by means of GC-MS has been successfully established as part of the GBA Group’s routine analysis. If you are interested or have any further questions, we will gladly assist you.
Further information on the maximum levels, which are expected to come into force from 01.01.2021, can be found here: