European selenium and chromium levels under scrutiny

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has called for data on appropriate levels of selenium and chromium in foods and beverages.

EFSA noted the existence of studies highlighting the safety of selenium and chromium in animal feed but called for data in the human area.

It noted selenium was authorised within the EU whereas chromium was not.

“The analytical method used and, if possible, information on the validation of the method, should be reported,”​ it said.

“If available, the number of samples analysed, and/or the number of replicated measures of the same sample for each value should also be reported.”

In regard to selenium, EFSA said the data should distinguish between inorganic and organic and be available. Data on selenium content in multivitamin and mineral food supplements was specified. For chromium data should distinguish between the two most important oxidation forms – called Cr - Cr (III) and Cr (VI) – as well as organic or inorganic origin.

Again, multivitamin and mineral food supplements were specified, with data accepted until 30 November this year.

Selenium and chromium occur naturally in the environment although chromium is more commonly produced industrially. Chromium is important for the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.

Selenium is known to function as an antioxidant.

In 2006, EFSA found a form of selenium used as a feed additive would mean children consuming products fed with it would be slightly above the Upper Level, as identified by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF).

Fresh data would “be of value when refining the exposure assessment.”

EFSA was evaluating​a dossier that may authorise Cr-methionine, a form of chromium, as a feed additive. Recent data on exposure to chromium in food and beverages would be needed for the assessment of chromium as a feed additive.

Information about how to submit data can be found here​.

Selenium yeast

EFSA scientists recently opined that there is no concern over the safety of selenium-enriched yeast, provided they are produced using selenium selenite and doses are respected.

EFSA’s Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC) found that the majority of products identified by the petitioners would provide an average daily selenium dose of 100 micrograms or less.

Selenium levels have been falling in Europe since the EU imposed levies on wheat imports from the US, where soil selenium levels are high.

As a result, average intake of selenium in the UK has fallen from 60 to 34 micrograms per day, leading to calls from some to enrich soil and fertilisers with selenium to boost public consumption. Selenium-enriched fertilisers are used in Finland.

The European recommended daily intake (RDI) is 65 micrograms. The recommended EC Tolerable Upper Intake Level for selenium is 300mcg per day.

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