Vanadium deemed unsafe in Europe

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Food European food safety authority

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has rejected vanadium as
an ingredient that can safely be used in foods and food supplements
because of overexposure fears to the general population.

EFSA's Panel on additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC) delivered negative verdicts on six vanadium-containing compounds. Vanadium forms are typically used as a dye and colour-fixer in foods and supplements. One of them, Vanadyl sulfate, has been used to increase insulin sensitivity in supplements and has therefore been targeted at diabetes sufferers and the body-building market. Vanadium also occurs naturally in seafood, meat, dairy foods, cooking oils, fresh fruit and vegetables. The AFC Panel stated: "Based on the available information on bioavailability of vanadium and the conclusions of the NDA panel (​dietetic products, nutrition and food allergies), the AFC Panel concluded that the safe use of the six sources for vanadium added to foods intended for the general population, including food supplements, and foods for particular nutritional uses, could not be established."​ The UK Food Standard Agency's Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM) reached a similar opinion in 2003, determining overexposure to vanadium could cause cramps, loosened stools, 'green tongue' as well as fatigue and lethargy. In vivo​ studies indicate vanadium could adversely affect male and female reproduction as well as infant development. The decision means the six vanadium sources will not be added to the European Union's central list of permitted vitamin and mineral substances for use in foods and supplements but can remain on the market in member states where derogations apply. A previous evaluation of vanadium by the NDA Panel noted toxic effects and concluded there was insufficient data to establish an upper safe limit. "The bioavailability of vanadium from five of these six compounds is higher than that of vanadium absorbed from the normal diet. Consequently consumers could be exposed to higher levels of vanadium through products containing these five compounds than from a normal diet,"​ it stated. Three of the vanadium forms - vanadium citrate, bismaltolato oxo vanadium and bisglycinato oxo vanadium - were proposed to be used in food products. Vanadyl sulphate, vanadium pentoxide and ammonium vanadate were proposed for food supplements. Vanadium is a metallic element that only exists in combination with other minerals and never in its pure state.

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