EUROPE – The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended the introduction of maximum permitted levels of phosphates used as additives in food supplements.

The EFSA has warned that estimated total intake of phosphates from food may exceed the safe level set and this could put the those who take them regularly at risk, i.e. effect of high phosphate intake on the kidney.

According to EFSA’s scientists, food additives indicatively contribute between 6 to 30% of the total average intake of phosphorus.

The dietary exposure was calculated from the total amount of phosphorus from all dietary sources and not limited to the levels in food additives reported by manufacturers.

Their research revealed that dietary exposure to phosphates may exceed the new ADI for infants, toddlers and children with average consumption of phosphates in their diet, similar to adolescents whose diet is high in phosphates.

However, the data did not give rise to safety concerns in infants below 16 weeks of age consuming formula and food for medical purposes containing phosphates.

“The panel has re-assessed the safety of phosphates and derived, for the first time, a group acceptable daily intake [ADI] of 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight [mg/kg bw] per day,” said Dr Ursula Gundert-Remy, Chair of the working group on phosphates.

“Because phosphates are also nutrients and essential to our diets, in our approach we defined an ADI which considers the likely phosphorus intake from various sources, including natural sources and food additives.”

Safe levels may be exceeded, likely kidney malfunction

Existing maximum permitted levels of these additives in food range from 500 to 20,000 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of food depending on the food type.

Based on EFSA analysis for those above the age of 3 years taking phosphate supplements regularly, estimated dietary exposure may exceed the ADI at levels associated with risks for kidney function.

Phosphates are essential nutrients (a form of phosphorus), which are present naturally in the human body and are an essential part of the diet.

The European Union authorizes use of phosphate substances as additives in a wide range of foods for “technological” functions (e.g. as emulsifiers, antioxidants) and some of them can be used in foods for infants and young children.