France provides updates to vitamin A use in food supplements

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

France’s Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) has published a new update for maximum levels of vitamin A (retinol) in food supplements.

The French Authority has increased the maximum level of vitamin A​ in the general population, children 10 years old or younger, and children over 10 years old.

For the general population, the maximum level of vitamin A (as Retinol equivalent (RE)) permitted for food supplements increases from 800 micrograms (μg) RE to 1000 μg RE.

However, the DGCCRF—a French administration under the Ministry of the Economy—does not recommend this increase for pregnant or menopausal women.

“Since an excess of retinol is teratogenic, the intake of vitamin A through dietary supplements be advised against pregnant women and women wishing to become pregnant,”​ the update said.

“Epidemiological studies also show an association between hypervitaminosis A, osteoporosis and hip fractures in menopausal women because they have a higher risk.”

Vitamin A in the EU

The new update reiterated that it remained the responsibility of the food business operator to mention the risks on the product label.

The DGCCRF estimates dietary intakes of vitamin A to be 1369 micrograms (μg) for the 95th percentile of the French population, with an estimated average of 835 μg. 

Scant data are available from other Member States of the European Union concerning vitamin A intakes, with Ireland posting a value of 2200 μg per day, also for the 95th percentile of the population.

In a 2016 opinion, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) revised the nutritional reference for the population to 750 μg per day for men and 650 μg per day for women. Given the available data, the DGCCRF believed these contributions to be satisfactory.

Other countries such as Belgium set the maximum level for Vitamin A permitted in food supplements at 1200 µg Vitamin A (RE).

In contrast, latest recommendations by The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR’) set the maximum level of vitamin A in food supplements at only 200 μg RE.

Vitamin A levels for food supplements recommended for children 10 years old or younger are set at 200 μg RE. Children over 10 years old are set a maximum recommended level of 500 μg RE.

Manganese guidance

The DGCCRF also provides health recommendations for nutrients such as manganese – a mineral that joins vitamin A in group C, classified as “high risk.”

Overexposure to manganese is considered neurotoxic, despite its low absorption by the gastrointestinal tract. French authorities are unable to establish a safety limit due to scientific uncertainty.

ANSES have established a dietary intake estimated at 5 mg per day (95th​ percentile) with an adequate intake at 2.8 mg/day.

With Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, setting the reference value at 2mg, the deficit in manganese is not considered a public health problem for the French population.

“The margin between the doses at which deleterious effects were observed and the estimated dietary intakes is weak,”​ the update stated.

“The value chosen is that proposed by the French Agency for Food Safety (AFSSA) in July 2009: 3.5 mg.”

“Values ​​retained for children and adolescents are derived from this value, 1.75 mg for adolescents and 0.7 mg for kids.”

However, in view of the proven neurotoxicity of manganese, the  DGCCRF added that the small margin between inputs and doses was likely to produce deleterious effects and prolonged consumption of food supplements was strongly discouraged.

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