CFS announces follow-up risk assessment results on aluminium in food
The study also found that the average and high consumers among the general population were unlikely to experience major undesirable health effects. Nevertheless, for consumers with brand loyalty to products with high aluminium contents, their risk to health from aluminium would be increased.
A spokesman for the CFS said, "Subsequent to releasing the first risk assessment study report on aluminium in food in 2009, the CFS conducted the above-mentioned follow-up study to examine the levels of aluminium in certain foods, which were shown to contain moderate to high levels of aluminium in the previous risk assessment study, and their relation to the use of aluminium-containing food additives. The levels of aluminium in these foods and those reported in the previous study were also compared to estimate the dietary exposure to aluminium of the Hong Kong population and its associated health risk."
The spokesman noted that although aluminium can naturally be present in some foods (typically at levels less than 5 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg)), aluminium-containing food additives remain the main source of aluminium in the human diet. These food additives can be used as firming agents, raising agents, stabilisers, anticaking agents, colouring matter and more. According to the evaluation of the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) on the safety of aluminium in 2011, the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) of aluminium was set at 2 mg/kg of body weight per week (bw/week).
In the present study, the CFS collected 309 samples from the local market for testing, covering 36 types of food items which were broadly divided into seven food groups comprising steamed bread/bun/cake, bakery products, snacks including fried snack products, jellyfish (ready-to-eat form), confectionery with coating, pickles and powder mix, which were mainly the food groups shown to contain moderate to high levels of aluminium in the previous study.
"The results of the follow-up study showed that aluminium-containing food additives were widely used in certain food products available in Hong Kong. The food products which were found to contain relatively high concentrations of aluminium included steamed bread/bun/cake (mean: 65-280 mg/kg), some bakery products such as egg waffle and waffle (mean: 270 mg/kg), and jellyfish (ready-to-eat form) (mean: 800 mg/kg) which had the highest mean concentration among the 36 types of food items. As regards non-ready-to-eat food items, cake mix/pancake mix/powder mix for bakery/powder mix for fried food products were also found to contain relatively high mean aluminium concentration of 290 mg/kg. Fried fritter, which belonged to the food group of snacks (including fried snack products), was found to have the lowest mean aluminium concentration of 2.2 mg/kg among the 36 types of food items. Furthermore, a wide variation of aluminium concentrations was found in the samples within the same type of food item," the spokesman said.
In addition, comparing the mean aluminium concentrations among the food items included in both the current and previous studies, a decrease in the mean aluminium concentration was found in 59 per cent (19 types) of food items whereas 38 per cent (12 types) of the food items showed an increase. The mean aluminium concentrations in all food items covered in four food groups, namely jellyfish (ready-to-eat form), confectionery with coating, pickles and powder mix, were found to have decreased. However, eight out of the 11 (73 per cent) food items in the food group of steamed bread/bun/cake showed increases in the mean aluminium concentration, ranging from 4 per cent to 75 per cent.
The main dietary source of aluminium from different food groups was similar to the previous study. Steamed bread/bun/cake contributed to 71 per cent of the overall dietary exposure (compared to 60 per cent in the previous study), which was followed by bakery products (21 per cent compared to 23 per cent in the previous study) and jellyfish (ready-to-eat form) (7 per cent compared to 10 per cent in the previous study).
"The dietary exposures for average and high consumers were estimated to be 0.49 mg/kg bw/week and 1.80 mg/kg bw/week respectively, accounting for 25 per cent and 90 per cent of the PTWI established by JECFA (2 mg/kg bw/week) respectively. Based on these results, the average and high consumers of the general population were unlikely to experience major undesirable health effects of aluminium. Nevertheless, for consumers with brand loyalty to products with high aluminium contents, risk to health from aluminium would be increased," the spokesman said.
"Aluminium compounds are not likely to cause acute toxicological effects by oral exposure. However, some studies demonstrated that aluminium compounds may have developmental toxicity effects. Regarding neurotoxicity, there was no conclusive evidence to demonstrate the association of aluminium with Alzheimer's disease. There was also no evidence that aluminium compounds have carcinogenic potential in humans."
The spokesman said the CFS will continue to work with the industry to lower the dietary exposure of aluminium and formulated the Guidelines on the Use of Aluminium-containing Food Additives for the trade. As the wide variation of aluminium concentrations in the samples within the same type of food item demonstrated that reducing the use of aluminium-containing food additives in the production of food products was possible, the spokesman advised the trade to adopt the Guidelines where appropriate to reduce the aluminium content of their products.
Consumers are advised to maintain a balanced diet so as to avoid excessive exposure to aluminium from a small range of food items. When purchasing prepackaged food products, consumers can refer to the ingredient lists on the food labels for information on whether aluminium-containing food additives have been used.
The study is available on the CFS' webpage at www.cfs.gov.hk.
Ends/Friday, November 18, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:23
Issued at HKT 17:23