CFSA Held an Open Day on “Limiting Aluminum intake for Better Health”
Five Ministries including NHFPC (National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China) have recently issued a joint announcement to change the regulations on the use of aluminum-containing food additives. Since July 1st 2014, sodium aluminium acid phosphate, sodium silicoaluminate and starch aluminium octenylsuccinate cannot be used in food processing and production; aluminium potassium sulfate and aluminum ammonium sulfate cannot be added in flour products such as steamed bread and steamed sponge cake, etc. (excluding fried flour products, flour paste, wrapped powder and fried powder used for coating). In addition, aluminum-containing food additives are not allowed in puffed food.
On June 6th 2014, China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) held an open day to explain those regulatory changes and the health impact of aluminum-containing food additives. Jianbo Zhang, the Deputy Director of The Standard Division III in CFSA emphasized that safety and necessity are the two most important principles for food additives management. The main reasons for the regulatory adjustment are as a result of the health guidance value for aluminum being lowered by JECFA; and the results of risk assessment. A survey on the use of aluminum-containing food additives in industry has been conducted and the provisions of CAC and other countries have been referenced. Zhang emphasized that the permitted types of aluminum-containing food additives would be reduced and the permitted concentration in food for those remaining will be further limited.
Ning Ma, associate researcher of the Risk Assessment Division I outlined that aluminum compounds have been utilized for hundreds of years in China and that aluminum-containing food additives, represented by alums, have been widely used by food industry. However, in recent years the media have reported that aluminum-containing food additives may cause senile dementia and other diseases, which triggered public concerns. Therefore, the Expert Committee of National Food Safety Risk Assessment initiated an assessment of the dietary exposure to aluminum in the Chinese population as a priority program.
Data shows that aluminum intake mainly comes from aluminum-containing food additives which are used as raising agents in flour products, coagulators for jellyfish processing, anti-tackiness agents in food ingredient powder and as a carrier of pigments. Foods with a high content of aluminum include jellyfish, fried bread sticks, deep-fried dough cake, vermicelli pasta, fried dough twist and steamed buns, etc.
International studies have shown that a balanced routine diet will not lead to aluminum poisoning. Some researches indicate that aluminum may be linked with senile dementia, however JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food and Additives) considered that the dietary exposure to aluminum was unlikely to increase the risk of senile dementia. Other suggested “possible” adverse health effects of aluminum include those on nerve and bone tissue and on iron metabolism .
In order to protect public health, JECFA has set the ‘provisional tolerated weekly intake’ (PTWI) of aluminum at 2 milligram per kilogram of body weight, which means 120 milligram of aluminum per week for a 60-kilogram adult which will not lead to an accumulation of aluminum or cause any damage to health. If the intake amount of aluminum occasionally exceeds PTWI, it would not affect the health either.
According to the risk assessment results the average aluminum intake by the Chinese population is lower than the PTWI proposed by JECFA; however, there are certain concerns for children under 14 years old and consumers who frequently consume foods containing a high level of aluminum. Flour products such as steamed bun, fried dough stick and noodles, etc. are the main sources of aluminum intake, and the aluminum intake of children from 7 to 14 years old mainly comes from puffed foods.
In order to further control aluminum intake, the government has revised corresponding standards, focusing on the control of aluminum in flour products and puffed foods. These modifications could greatly reduce the dietary intake level of aluminum among Chinese populations and further protect public health. According to a preliminary estimates, the average intake level of aluminum among Chinese populations will be decreased by 85.6% after implementation of the new standard, which only accounts for 12.92% of the reference value (PTWI) proposed by JECFA.
Ning Ma emphasized that consumers maintain a balanced diet and avoid the over consumption of particular foods which might result in an excessive intake of aluminum. In addition, particular attention should be paid to the consumption patterns of children. Puffed foods should be limited and jellyfish consumption should be reduced and the jellyfish needs to be soaked and cleaned repeatedly before consumption. Consumers should be encouraged to read food labels to become better informed on the foods that contain aluminum-based food additives.