2- and 3-MCPD Esters & GE

The vegetable oil and fat industry is committed to food safety and quality. Each vegetable oil and fat is subject to the highest standards of quality and safety controls, from the seeds, to the ingredient in food products or to the bottle. FEDIOL members are monitoring closely and taking actions on contaminants that are relevant to edible vegetable oils and fats. This includes 2- and 3-MCPD esters and glycidyl esters.

2- and 3- MCPD esters and glycidyl esters are substances that can arise in refined oils and fats during the refining process, as high temperatures are applied in order to achieve quality and safety specifications.
For years, FEDIOL members have proactively engaged in research on these substances, with a view to contribute to a better understanding on their occurrence in vegetable oils and fats, factors influencing their occurrence, development of analytical methods and mitigation techniques.
The vegetable oil and fat industry is committed to food safety and quality. FEDIOL members are monitoring closely and taking actions on contaminants that are relevant to edible vegetable oils and fats. This includes 2- and 3-MCPD esters and glycidyl esters.

2- and 3- MCPD esters and glycidyl esters are substances that can arise in refined oils and fats during the refining process, as high temperatures are applied in order to achieve quality and safety specifications.

For years, FEDIOL members have proactively engaged in research on these substances, with a view to contribute to a better understanding on their occurrence in vegetable oils and fats, factors influencing their occurrence, development of analytical methods and mitigation techniques.

On glycidyl esters (GE), risk management discussions to set EU maximum limits are currently ongoing. EU limits are expected to be in force by mid 2018. Ahead, FEDIOL took a strong commitment in mid 2015 to reduce GE levels in all vegetable oils for food uses to a maximum 1mg/kg by September 2017. This is a significant reduction. FEDIOL members are currently implementing their plans as the date is around the corner.

 For 3-MCPD esters, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently working on a reopened opinion on 3-MCPD esters, following scientific divergences identified with the work done by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). See in FEDIOL Q&A for further details here. Risk management discussions will restart once EFSA final opinion is available. Also in mid-2015, a FEDIOL overall reduction objective was made on 3-MCPDE, without specific level. FEDIOL members are currently busy assessing how and when further reductions can be implemented.

1. Developing and improving analytical methods for vegetable oils and fats

Huge efforts have been made in developing and evaluating analytical methodologies for 2- and 3-MCPD esters and glycidyl esters in vegetable oils and fats. Three validated methods of analysis (developed by SGS, DGF and Unilever) to test for 2- and 3-MCPD esters and glycidyl esters in vegetable oils and fats have been available since 2013. See here for more information.

The Joint Research Center (JRC) developed methods for the analysis of 2- and3-MCPD (both in free and ester form) and glycidyl esters in more complex various food products. The document is available here. These methods have been validated in 2015.

2. Monitoring and collecting data

With the availability of validated analytical methods, levels of 2- and 3-MCPD esters and glycidyl esters have since then been identified with greater reliability in vegetable oils and fats.

FEDIOL has compiled a data collection of analytical results that have been provided by FEDIOL members: this represents over 4000 data points on 2- and 3-MCPD esters and glycidyl esters, in the main refined vegetable oils and fats, covering the years 2009 to 2015. All these data have been shared with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ahead of the EFSA work on the issue.

3. Work by Authorities

In July 2014, the EU Commission has given mandate to EFSA to carry out an exposure and risk assessment on 2- and 3-MCPD, 2- and 3-MCPD esters and Glycidyl esters. See here.

The EFSA opinion has been released on 3 May 2016.  See here.  

In November 2016, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) also carried out a risk assessment on 3MCPD esters (see here for a summary – full outcome not yet published). Due to the scientific divergence between the 2 risk assessment, EFSA decided in January 2017 to re-open its opinion on 3-MCPD esters. The process is currently underway and could take several months.

Risk management measures are under discussion between the European Commission and Member States.

In 2009 and 2013 assessment and guidance had been provided by the German Risk Assessment Authority (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung - BfR), which can be accessed here and here and on the basis of which FEDIOL members focussed their efforts on reducing glycidyl esters due to the risk profile of this substance.

4. Improving the understanding on the intake of vegetable oils and fats

FEDIOL supported the initiation of a new model, to estimate the intake of vegetable oils and fats in the diet in a more comprehensive way. The model used EUROSTAT, EFSA, FAO data bases and FEDIOL specific expertise on EU vegetable oils and fats production and consumption.

The scientific publication and the model, co-authored by David Tennant and John Paul Gosling, have both been published in open access in the Food Additives and Contaminants Journal in August 2015. Both are available here.

5. Preventing and reducing levels

FEDIOL members have engaged actively in developing and implementing effective measures and technologies to prevent and reduce the occurrence of these substances.

FEDIOL prepared a review of available mitigation techniques, which is available here.

Mitigation is complex as no one single approach works in isolation. What is required is a combination of techniques including prevention or removal or both. As no two refineries are alike, neither their portfolio of products, implementation is required on a case-by-case basis. At the same time, industry also has to ensure that the quality of the oils is maintained. A flow chart illustrating crushing and refining processes can be found here.

FEDIOL members have so far focused their efforts on glycidyl ester reduction as it was felt this was the top priority; mid-2015, FEDIOL members committed to reduce the levels of glycidyl esters to a maximum of 1ppm (mg/kg) on all vegetable oils and fats by September 2017. And indeed, EFSA acknowledges a substantial reduction has already been achieved (50% over a five-year period in the case of palm oil). Mitigation on 2- and 3-MCPD esters has proven to require more time to implement. FEDIOL members are currently assessing available technologies and designing possible implementation plans. The final EFSA opinion is expected to give further guidance in terms of needed mitigations.

update : 15/03/2017


Recent documents:

FEDIOL Statement

FEDIOL Q&A