The European Food Safety Authority’s reassessment of the thickening agent locust bean gum – E410 – found no cause for concern for most uses. But it raised several questions about the additive when used in specialised nutrition products for babies or infants.
“The Panel concluded that the available data do not allow an adequate assessment of the safety of locust bean gum (E 410) in infants and young children consuming these foods for special medical purposes,” the EFSA reassessment on locust bean gum noted.
Potential for gastrointestinal problems
The main cause for concern was the potentially high quantity of locust bean gum infants and babies could be consuming – up to 1,555 mg/kg bodyweight per day – leading to the possibility of undesirable gastrointestinal effects, as reported in a number of individual cases, but not backed up by any studies.
The EFSA panel recommended that additional data should be generated to assess the potential health impacts of the additive for ‘dietary foods for infants for special medical purposes and special formulae for infants’ (Food category 220.127.116.11) and in ‘dietary foods for babies and young children for special medical purposes as defined in Directive 1999/21/EC’ (Food category 18.104.22.168).
Aurélie Perrichet, executive director of Specialised Nutrition Europe, said the EFSA opinion was positive overall, noting it highlighted the absence of toxicity of locust bean gum, and concluded there was no need for a numerical acceptable daily intake for the additive.
“However, the EFSA panel did identify some gaps in the available data on the use of locust bean gum in the whole FSMPs category. Further research is already underway to help fill these data gaps with regards to FSMPs for infants and young children,” said Perrichet.
“The EFSA opinion is not expected to have an immediate impact on specialised nutrition products currently on the market, as this scientific opinion will now have to be considered from a risk management standpoint,” she added.
Consultation open on protein hydrolysate formulae
EFSA has also launched a public consultation on its proposals for the application process for infant or follow-on formulae manufactured from protein hydrolysates.
The regime is being put in place following a 2014 opinion that all formulae from protein hydrolysates should be individually evaluated.
“Clinical studies are necessary to demonstrate if and to what extent a particular formula reduces the risk of developing short- and long-term clinical manifestations of allergy in at-risk infants who are not exclusively breast fed,” concluded the 2014 EFSA opinion.
The public consultation is open for comments from interested parties until 3 March 2017. The new requirements for infant and follow-on formula products will apply from 2021.