JECFA lycopene additive approval could influence EU levels

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food additive Codex alimentarius

The recent approval of tomato extract-derived lycopene as a food additive by international body, JECFA, could influence a rethink of Accepted Daily Intakes (ADI) in Europe, according to world-leading Israeli supplier, Lycored.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives​(JECFA) recently found no issue with natural, fungal and synthetic lycopene for use as a food additive and set no ADI, a fact Lycored believes should influence European risk managers and assessors when the current EFSA-approved level of 0.5mg next comes under consideration.

“The 0.5mg level is very low,”​ Lycored’s vice president of new product development and scientific affairs, Zohar Nir, told

By way of an example he noted that at the 0.5mg level, school-children would exceed the ADI, which is set by milligram per kilogram of bodyweight, from naturally-occurring levels in the food supply.

It is believed there is momentum by food agencies in some member states to revisit lycopene levels across the 27-country bloc, and this has been raised with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

JECFA’s initial position had been in line with this level but an industry appeal led to a reassessment of the evidence and JECFA delivered its current opinion with no specified ADI for all three forms of lycopene.

“The current ADI means that for 70kg adults, no more than 35mg/day should be allowed,”​ Nir said, noting a number of studies conducted by Lycored that demonstrated various health benefits of lycopene at levels above the EFSA-approved ADI.

JECFA’s recommendation was ”therefore a good step toward”​ a reconsideration of lycopene levels in the EU, Nir said.

JECFA recommendations carry weight with food safety authorities in individual countries as well as organisations like the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the FAO’s international food supplement regulation advisory arm.

In a statement, Nir added: “In today’s market a premium is set on the healthy benefits offered by a processed food. If a manufacturer can tout on his label either a healthy natural colourant or fortification with an ingredient providing proven health benefits, it will set his product apart from the competition and give a welcome boost to sales.”

Lycopene is an antioxidant that is present in red- and pink-coloured fruits and vegetables. It has been shown to have heart, blood pressure, prostate, osteoporosis, skin and other benefits in both natural and synthetic forms.

As well as being used as a food coloring, it has also used for its functional properties in food supplements and some food and beverage products, particularly those targeting the ‘beauty-from-within’ market.

According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), globally there were 418 global lycopene​ product launches between 2003 and 2009 in foods, supplements and cosmetics. There have been 83 launches so far in 2009.

In March, LycoRed, along with Vitatene, BASF and DSM, won Novel Foods approval for lycopene forms.

Under that approval, the four companies offerings could be used in:

  • food supplements at 15 mg/day
  • Fruit/vegetable juice based drinks at 25 mg/l
  • Drinks for intense muscular efforts (sports drinks) at 25 mg/l
  • Foods intended for energy restricted diets for weight reduction at 50 mg/kg
  • Breakfast cereal at 50 mg/kg
  • Fats and dressings at 100 mg/kg
  • Soups other than tomato at 10 mg/kg
  • Bread including crispy bread at 30 mg/kg
  • Foods for special medical purposes at the level needed for the particular nutritional uses

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