Europe finds lycopene safe for foods

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, European union

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has found the carotenoid
lycopene to be safe in a number of new applications.

It conducted reviews of lycopene ingredients sourced synthetically as well as from tomatoes that were intended for use in food supplements and as a food ingredient. The Panel on Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) adopted two opinions on lycopene oleoresin as novel foods under the Novel Foods regulation. The NDA Panel concluded that lycopene oleoresin from tomatoes and two of the formulations of synthetic lycopene proposed by the applicants are as safe as lycopene from other accepted sources. But it failed to rule on a 20 per cent synthetic lycopene formulation for want of data. The lycopene market is dominated by Israelie-based supplier, Lycored, and best known for its ability to benefit the heart and prostate. Novel Food application ​ The tomato-derived application consisted of a mixture of a lycopene-rich lipid fraction and a resin obtained from the pulp of ripe non-GM tomatoes. The synthetic application consisted of three formulations - a 10 per cent version, a 10 per cent cold water dispersion (CWD) variety, and the 20 per cent form the NDA failed to conclude as safe. The application sought use in food supplements and beverages, dairy products, breakfast cereals and cereal bars. Lycopene has been used in the food supplements market since before 1997 and so does not require Novel Foods authorisation for the sector within the European Union. After considering lycopene use from all sources, including that contained naturally in whole foods such as tomatoes and fruits and vegetables, EFSA recently issued an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 0-0.5 mf/kg body weight per day. The NDA Panel said the average consumption of lycopene would be below this level but that given the increasing prevalence of lycopene in the food supply, some may exceed the ADI. The NDA's deliberations on tomato-sourced lycopene were based on normal dietary intake of lycopene from food; intake of lycopene from dietary supplements; intake of lycopene from proposed food products and; use of lycopene as a food colour. Lycopene extracted from tomatoes is authorised within the EU as food colouring agent (E160d). The applicant proposed to use 2mg of lycopene per food serving which the NDA found no issue with. "Regular intakes of lycopene from natural dietary sources in different populations are, according to dietary surveys, estimated to be on average between 0.5 and 5 mg/day, with high exposures up to about 8 mg/day,"​ the NDA said. Those who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, especially tomatoes, may have intakes of 20mg per day or more. Lycopene-containing supplements users had intakes of between 5-15mg per day. The applicant said if fortification went ahead in the six categories it suggested, lycopene consumption of 12mg per day for the average person would be the result.

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