PARMA, ITALY The first-ever review of the safety of 11 smoke flavorings used in the European Union has been completed by the European Food Safety Authority. Based on E.F.S.A.’s work, the European Commission will establish a list of smoke flavoring products authorized for use in foods.

Smoke flavorings can be added to certain foods including meat, fish or cheeses to give them a “smoked” flavor, as an alternative to traditional smoking. They can also be used as flavorings in other foods, such as soups, sauces, drinks and confectionery. All of the smoke flavorings that have been assessed by E.F.S.A. are currently, or have previously been, on the market in the E.U.

“The panel based its conclusions on the limited data, which are currently available, as well as conservative  or cautious intake estimates,” said Klaus-Dieter Jany, the chair of E.F.S.A.’s expert panel on flavorings (C.E.F. panel). “The panel expressed safety concerns for several smoke flavorings where intake levels could be relatively close to the levels which may cause negative health effects. However, this does not necessarily mean that people consuming these products will be at risk as, in order to be on the safe side, the consumption estimates deliberately over-estimate intake levels.”

In order to assess the safety of these smoke flavorings, the C.E.F. panel asked manufacturers for data on the composition and toxicity of their products, as well as details on their intended uses and use levels. Based on this information, the panel determined the highest intake level at which each product was shown not to cause adverse health effects in animals. This level was then compared to estimated intake levels for humans in order to determine “margins of safety” for each product.

Out of the 11 smoke flavorings evaluated by the panel, experts found the margins of safety for two of the products were large enough not to give rise to safety concerns when considering the uses and use levels specified by the manufacturers. For eight others, the smaller margins of safety did give rise to safety concerns and for one of those smoke flavorings the panel could not rule out concerns regarding possible genotoxicity (damage to the genetic material of cells) given the available data. The panel could not assess the safety of one further smoke flavoring due to the lack of adequate data available.