Furan, 2-methylfuran, 3-methylfuran and 2,5-dimethylfuran are volatile compounds formed in food during thermal processing. EFSA has issued a comprehensive evaluation of the toxicity of these compounds and the risks they pose to the European population.

Furan is highly toxic to the liver of rodents, with effects including fibrosis and, at higher doses, tumours, for which there is clear evidence for “indirect” (threshold) modes of action (epigenetic changes, oxidative damage to DNA and regenerative hyperplasia), but also limited evidence of a (non-threshold) mechanism based on the direct interaction of its reactive metabolite (cis-but-2-ene-1,4-dialdehyde, BDA) with DNA. As such, EFSA considered the setting of a tolerable daily intake (TDI) inappropriate, opting instead for a margin of exposure (MoE) based evaluation. This suggested that furan (for which the main dietary contributors are “ready-to-eat meals” for infants, coffee and grain‑based products) presents a concern for human health at current exposure levels. Limited data meant that a point of departure (POD) could not be established for the methylfurans, though MoE estimates assuming dose additivity with furan suggest that these substances may add significantly to the overall exposure and any resulting toxicity.

European Food Safety Authority (2017). Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM). Risks for public health related to the presence of furan and methylfurans in food. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2017.5005/epdf

 

The above items were taken from the December 2017 issue of Toxicology and Regulatory News which is sent automatically to members of bibra.

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