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The history of Proposal 298 - benzoate and sulphites

(July 2016)
  • The results of the 21st Australian Total Diet Study indicate a potential public health and safety concern due to possible exceedances of the relevant health-based guidance values for benzoates and sulphites for some groups in the Australian population. FSANZ raise a proposal (P298) to assess the risks.
  • An expert advisory group of representatives of industries using sulphites is established.
  • An initial Assessment Report is published asking for industry input on what products could be considered for either lowering sulphite levels or replacing them.
  • Evidence is received showing slight exceedances of the health-based guidance values for sulphites for young children in New Zealand.
  • FSANZ liaises with meat industry and major retailers on risk management options, possible alternatives to sulphites, current efforts to decrease levels and the potential effects on the meat industry of a reduction in sulphites in the Code.
  • FSANZ reviews global regulations and the technological need for benzoates and sulphites.
  • Dietary modelling of benzoates and sulphites is conducted using new dietary consumption information and results demonstrate there is no longer a concern about benzoates.
  • Research is commissioned into the effect of reducing the level of sulphites in sausages.
  • A survey of concentrations of sulphites in dried apricots in Australia is conducted.
  • FSANZ commissions a further study of sulphites in sausages, cordials and dried fruits through the National Coordinated Food survey Plan. The survey data was used for an updated dietary assessment of sulphites in the diet.
  • FSANZ considers setting a maximum permitted level (MPL) at point of sale and a voluntary reduction of sulphite levels for short shelf-life sausages.
  • The potential costs of lowering levels of sulphites in raw sausages in Australia and New Zealand is investigated.
  • Sausage pre-mix manufacturers are visited to gauge their interest in helping to roll out a reduced MPL for sulphites.
  • FSANZ commissions a dose-range finding study due to concerns about studies used to set the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). The study suggests the current ADI is too low.
  • A further study (Til and Feron, 1992) is found which also casts doubt on the current ADI, supporting the conclusion that the ADI is not robust.
  • A recommendation is made to the FSANZ Board to abandon P298 and the proposal is abandoned. Further work may be undertaken following international evaluations.


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