MCPDs and glycidyl fatty acid esters
MCPDs and glycidyl fatty acid esters
Free MCPD (3- and 2-monochloropropanediol) and their esters as well as glycidyl fatty acid esters belong to the process contaminants, as these substances are mainly formed during the production of vegetable fats and oils: Vegetable fats and oils are heated to high temperatures to remove unpleasant and bitter odors and tastes (refining). The MCPD fatty acid esters (from 150 °C) and glycidyl fatty acid esters (from 200 °C) formed in this process can thus be present in all refined vegetable fats and oils and in all foods to which these fats and oils are added as an ingredient.
Glycidyl fatty acid esters and 3-MCPDs have been detected in edible oils and fats and in foods made from them, such as margarine, bakery and confectionery products, spreads(chocolate spreads, peanut butter), deep-fried products, and various snack products (e.g. pretzels, potato chips), as well as infant formula and follow-on formula.
The highest concentrations of these substances are found in palm oils and palm fats, but they are also found in other vegetable oils and vegetable fats (e.g..: Coconut oil/fat, walnut oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil and margarine).
- 3-MCPD is considered to be possibly carcinogenic to humans. The group TDI (tolerable daily intake) for 3-MCPD and 3-MCPD esters of 0.8 µg/kg body weight per day derived by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2016 was revised in 2018 and corrected to a group TDI of 2 µg/kg body weight per day (EFSA, 2018).
- No such limit exists for 2-MCPD to date. The effects on the organism have not been sufficiently investigated.
Gycidyl fatty acid esters:
In the body, glycidyl fatty acid esters are broken down and glycidol is released. This substance is considered carcinogenic and mutagenic (EFSA, 2016; JECFA, 2017). Intake via food should therefore be as low as possible. For this substance, no daily tolerable intake level can be defined at which negative consequences for human health can be ruled out.
Situation in Austria
In Regulation (EU) 2023/915, certain foodstuffs are regulated with maximum levels with regard to 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD), 3-MCPD fatty acid esters and glycidyl fatty acid esters. As part of official controls, the regulated product groups are checked for compliance with the legal maximum levels.
- Palm oil/palm fat is a major contributor to the intake of these undesirable substances for most people, as it is present in many foods. Therefore, pay attention to the ingredient list.
- Children should not eat foods with a high palm oil content on a daily basis.
- Deep-frying fats often contain high levels of these contaminants. For this reason, it is recommended to eat fried foods such as French fries, schnitzel, etc. as rarely as possible.
- Cook yourself with fresh ingredients, as many industrially produced foods contain palm oil (especially chocolate spreads, cookies, baked goods, cakes, margarine, fried and baked products).
- If not breastfed, there is no alternative to industrially produced infant milk formula for infant feeding. Parents are recommended to continue feeding their infants with the products specially made for them, because these products contain vital nutrients in the right composition for the infant.
According to EFSA, palm fat/oil contains mean levels of 2,912 micrograms per kilogram of food (μg/kg) for 3-MCPD and 1,565 for 2-MCPD, and 3,955 μg/kg for glycidol. Lower mean levels were found for other oils: between 48 and 608 μg/kg for 3-MCPD, between 86 and 270 μg/kg for 2-MCPD, and between 15 and 650 μg/kg for glycidol.
According to EFSA, glycidyl fatty acid esters are formed from diacylglycerol (DAG) when vegetable oils are heated to temperatures above 200°C. Palm oil contains high levels of DAG (4 - 12%), therefore more glycidyl fatty acid esters are formed.
The most recent compilation of content data in foods can be found in EFSA's 2016 report, which included a total of 7,175 analytical data on the occurrence of these substances in foods from a total of 23 European Member States (2009 - 2015).
According to the 2016 EFSA Scientific Opinion, which conducted an exposure assessment of the process contaminants 2-MCPDs and their esters, 3-MCPDs and their esters, and glycidyl fatty acid esters, there is cause for potential health concern for infants, toddlers, and children: these younger age groups ingest the greatest amount of these substances on average, relative to their body weight. For adolescents and adults, there are potential health concerns for high consumers (people with above-average consumption) of products containing these substances.
In the 2018 EFSA Scientific Opinion, the data of 3-MCPDs and their esters from 2016 were used and re-evaluated. Intake levels of 3-MCPDs in food are considered safe for the majority of consumers; however, there are potential health concerns for consumers in younger age groups with high intakes. In the worst case, infants receiving only infant formula could easily exceed the safe intake level.
- Infants consume these substances through infant formula and follow-on formula. This is because refined oils/fats are a component of infant formula.
- Children up to 3 years of age ingest these substances via vegetable fats and oils, cookies, baked goods and cakes, infant milk foods, and fried or roasted meat products.
- Children 3 years and older absorb these substances primarily through margarine, baked goods and cakes. Other sources include vegetable fats and oils, fried or roasted meat products, and chocolate spreads.
- Adolescents/adults consume these substances via margarine, baked goods and cakes, as well as fried or roasted meat products and chocolate spreads.
EU Commission (2014). Recommendation of 10 September 2014 on the monitoring of the presence of 2- and 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol (2- and 3-MCPD), of 2- and 3-MCPD fatty acid esters and glycidyl fatty acid esters in food.
EFSA (2016). Risks for human health related to the presence of 3- and 2-monochloropropanediol (MCPD), and their fatty acid esters, and glycidyl fatty acid esters in food. EFSA Journal 2016; 14(5):4426 [159 pp].
JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) (2017). Evaluation of certain contaminants in food - Eighty-third report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. WHO Technical Report Series 74-106.
Last updated: 10.10.2023