Two studies (see here and here) conducted since 2009 suggested a link between a high folic acid intake and cancer, prompting the VKM to re-evaluate the UL once more and consider whether it should be lowered.
As part of its evaluation, the VKM looked at patients previously treated for colorectal adenomas – a group considered particularly at risk for developing cancer – who had been given folic acid. No increased risk of cancer in relation to folic acid intake was found and the VKM ruled that there was no evidence to support a change
EFSA’s Scientific Committee on Food set the current Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for folic acid at 1000 micrograms (µg) per day in 2000. It then re-evaluated and upheld this level in 2009
UL refers to the highest level that can be consumed daily for an indefinite period without causing side effects, while maximum amounts are set on an everyday safety basis, taking into account possible intakes of the vitamin in question from other dietary sources.
Pre-empting work of the EU?
In 2006 the European Commission began work on setting common limits for vitamins and minerals but the programme has been at a standstill since 2009. Norway’s re-evaluation of UL for vitamins and minerals in food supplements comes in light of this block.
“We were asked to carry out the study by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority because there were so many different opinions within the European Commission on this matter that they could not be united,” Margaretha Haugen, chair of the VKM Committee, told NutraIngredients.
Regarding the standstill, the European Commission said: “We have consulted extensively with Member States and interested stakeholders on the issue, and many divergent opinions have been expressed. The initiative was put on hold because of other priorities, and no decision has yet been taken as to when the initiative will be re-launched.”
The Commission also said that it does envisage setting harmonized maximum limits on a pan-European scale at some point but that individual countries may set their own national rules in the meantime. Norway and the UK have set a national maximum amount of 200µg for folic acid in food supplements, while it is 300µg in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.