Nitrate in vegetables – balancing risks and benefits

Scientific opinion of the CONTAM Panel adopted 2008

Claudia Heppner – Unit on Contaminants

Overview
• Introduction

• Occurrence and exposure
• Hazard identification and characterisation • Risk characterisation • Benefit identification and characterisation • Risk benefit characterisation • Conclusions • Recommendations
EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition , Athens, 22.10.2010

Introduction

Consumers need clear advice

EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition , Athens, 22.10.2010

5 Vegetables are part of a healthy diet ..On the one hand......

22. Nitrate via nitrite can lead to potential adverse health outcomes Gastric Carcinoma Blue Baby Syndrome EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .2010 ...10. Athens...On the other hand..

. The assessment should take into account the amounts of nitrate found in vegetables as consumed and any relevant considerations on the possible balance between risks and beneficial health effects”. 22.2010 7 . Athens.10.EFSA was asked by EC “ .provide a scientific risk assessment for the longer term strategy for managing the risk from nitrate in vegetables.” “. EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .to assess the risks to consumers from nitrate in vegetables..

2010 .EU legislation: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 Foodstuff Fresh spinach Maximum levels (mg nitrate/kg) Harvested 1 October to 31 March Harvested 1 April to 30 September 3000 2500 2000 Harvested 1 October to 31 March: lettuce grown under cover lettuce grown in the open air Harvested 1 April to 30 September lettuce grown under cover lettuce grown in the open air Lettuce grown under cover Lettuce grown in the open air Preserved. deep-frozen or frozen spinach Fresh lettuce (protected and opengrown lettuce) excl lettuce l below 4500 4000 3500 2500 2500 2000 200 Iceberg-type lettuce Processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants & young EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . Athens. 22.10.

pregnant women etc Relating exposure estimates to health based guidance value Risk characterisation . NOEAL. infants. children. Island. Norway. mode/mechanism of action. ARfD.g.g. probabilistic approach Adults.g. vegetarians. mathematical modelling (BMD) including the establishment of a health based guidance value (e. TDI) Exposure assessment Deterministic vs.The four-step paradigm in risk assessment Hazard identification Occurrence data EFSA: E. dose-response. Switzerland and Liechtenstein Food consumption data Concise European Food Consumption Database Hazard characterisation ADME.immunotox. subgroups of population (e. subchronic & chronic toxicity human studies genotox. reprotox. acute.U. Member States. selection of critical dataset and e.

Occurrence/exposure .

France 11 EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . 22.10.Nitrate in our diets Vegetables and fruit Animal-based products Other foods Beer Water Conversion of nitrate 91 mg/person/day 14% 22% 1% 4% 6% 52% 12% 141 mg/person/day 6% 8% 75% Dietary nitrate exposure .UK Dietary nitrate exposure .2010 . Athens.

22.Nitrite in our diets – External sources Vegetables and fruit Animal-based products Other foods Beer Water Conversion of nitrate 1.0 mg/person/day 41% 35% 47% 39% Dietary nitrite exposure .5 mg/person/day 0% 7% 11% 15% 0% 5% 2. Athens.2010 12 .10.France EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .UK Dietary nitrite exposure .

UK Total nitrite exposure .France EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .2010 13 .10.3 mg/person/day 2% 6% 8% 0% 1% 11.Total Nitrite in our diets – External + Internal Vegetables and fruit Animal-based products Other foods Beer Water Conversion of nitrate 7. Athens.3 mg/person/day 6% 6% 2% 0% 1% 83% 85% Total nitrite exposure . 22.

22. 1 – 4.415 • Vegetable varieties (sufficient data) 59 • Vegetable Categories as in 9 (EC 178/2006) • Huge range median nitrate conc.800mg/kg • Data below LOD <5% EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .10.2010 14 . Athens.So how did the CONTAM Panel tackle the assessment of nitrate in vegetables? • Analytical data from 20 Member States and Norway from 2000-2007 41.

10. 22.800 Median concentration mg/kg 4000 3000 2000 Butterhead lettuce Lettuce Iceberg lettuce 1.978 Spinach 1000 241 Water cress 60 83 41 791 1.140 915 844 785 12 302 56 152 0 les les le s b b b a a a et et et g g g ve ve ve a g b l n u s ic iti B s u a Fr Br gi n Fu s es les les er m b b b a a gu Tu et et e g g d L e ve an yv s f m a e ot o St Le R r He 15 bs EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .2010 .Nitrate levels in vegetable groups 5000 Rucola 4. Athens.

Influence of season. production system and region on nitrate levels 1000 900 800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 5000 4500 4000 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 covered covered covered covered covered covered field field field field field summer North winter summer winter summer South winter Central Lettuce varieties Production under cover lead to higher nitrate levels Nitrate levels in lettuce produced in southern < northern Europe 16 field Nitrate concentration mg/kg Number of samples .

endives and celery leaves. carrots. frozen) and food processing (washing. boiling) can influence nitrate levels. 22. Athens. potatoes. beans. reduction of nitrate levels by 10-15% when washing leafy vegetables. blanching. spinach. 30% when peeling potatoes. • E.10.g.2010 17 . peeling.Mitigation factors for nitrate • Storage time and conditions (ambient. Paucity of published data in this area EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . 16 to 79% when cooking peas. refrigerated.

2010 18 . 22.. eg.Vegetable Consumption is very variable in Europe • No typical consumer • Estimates of WHO GEMS Food Consumption cluster diets database: mean 372 g • Data from 11 Member States & Norway: 97. 771g potatoes/d Ireland and 133g/d leafy vegetables in Spain EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . Athens.5th percentile 393 g • WHO recommendation: 400g/person/day fruit and vegetables • CONTAM selected 400 g/person/day as a conservative figure ASSUMED ALL CONSUMED AS VEGETABLES • Tested impact of different “high consumer” scenarios.10.

Exposure .Exposure scenarios Scenarios Vegetable consumption (g/person/day) 400 (mix.652/392 Highest regional median nitrate conc.338/4.745/2. except potatoes) 771 (potatoes) 133 (spinach/ lettuce/ 1/3 rucola 2/3 lettuce) 133 (spinach/lettuce)/ 267 (mix) 133(spinach/lettuce)/ 267 (mix) EU overall median nitrate conc. (mg/kg) 392 106 785/1. but type and nitrate content ./person/ (mg NO3 day) S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 157 82 104/178/330 209/283 337/457 Main driver not amount of vegetable eaten.800 785/1.338/392 1.

per day. . pulses (low nitrate content) and not by excessive amounts of vegetables.Population subgroups • Children No accurate data on vegetable consumption. Vegetarians are not different from S1 scenario (400 g vegetables).due to 15 Dec 2010 • Vegetarians Protein requirements from animal products are substituted by cereals. For a 20 kg child nitrate exposure would be between 2 and 12 mg/kg b. • The CONTAM Panel is currently addressing possible public health risks for infants and young children from the presence of nitrates in leafy vegetables . hence 200 g was chosen as a realistic estimate.w. nuts.

Hazard identification and characterisation .

20% of the secreted nitrate is reduced to nitrite. • Under acidic conditions. • App. • App.Toxicokinetics • Nitrate is quickly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the plasma. 25% of the plasma nitrate is via the salivary glands bioconcentrated app. • Salvage through reabsorption from the kidney together with biliary and salivary recirculation.2010 22 . EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .10. 10-fold and secreted into the saliva. nitrate is transformed to NO and other metabolites. Athens. • Most adsorbed nitrate is excreted in the urine. 22.

Athens. – Nitrate has a low chronic toxicity. – Nitrate/nitrite is not genotoxic. – Nitrate is not carcinogenic to humans (JECFA. EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . 22.10.2010 23 .General toxicity • Toxicity of nitrate is low and adverse effects can occur from its metabolic conversion to nitrite. • Since the last evaluation by JECFA in 2003 no new significant toxicity data have been reported. 2003).

22.2010 24 .w.7 mg/kg b. Athens. • No new data were identified by the CONTAM Panel to revise this ADI. EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .nitrate • Former SCF and JECFA derived an ADI of 3. / day (60 kg adult) • The ADI equates to 222 mg/day for an adult.10.Acceptable daily intake (ADI) .

Risk characterisation 25 .

ADI Scenarios Vegetable consumption (g/person/day) 400 (mix.Exposure scenarios vs. background exposure from other sources 44 mg/person/day Exposure normally below the ADI. but can be exceeded for certain consumers 26 . except potatoes) Exposure (mg NO3/person/ day *) 201 % of ADI (mg/day for 60 kg adult) S1 91 S2 S3 (A/B/C) S4 S5 771 (potatoes) 133 (spinach/ lettuce/ 1/3 rucola 2/3 lettuce) 133 (spinach/lettuce)/ 267 (mix) 133(spinach/lettuce)/ 267 (mix) regional 126 148/222/374 253/327 381/501 57 67/100/168 114/147 172/226 *) inc.

Exceedance of ADI • S3C: Consumption of 1/3 of leafy vegetables as rucola. Athens.10.2010 . 22. Occasional exceedance of the ADI by two-fold will not lead to appreciable heath risks. • S4 and S5: High-level consumer of vegetables and lettuce at 97.5th percentile or at the highest regional level. 27 EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . 47 g rucola would result in an excursion above the ADI without taking background into consideration.

Benefit identification and characterisation .

22. in fortified foods should decrease oxidative damage” The Good the Fad and the Unhealthy EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . scientists assumed that these antioxidants were protective and that taking them. Athens.Whole vegetables v phytochemicals “Putting two and two together..10.2010 29 .

2010 . 22. 2003 Prevention of noncommunicable diseases eg •cardiovascular •cancer •obesity •type 2 diabetes 30 EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .What are the Impacts of eating vegetables? Vegetables are good for your health 400g fruit and vegetables/day recommended by WHO. Athens.10.

Risk/benefit characterisation 31 .

10. 22.2010 . Athens.Balancing risk and benefit Pros and cons of exposure to nitrate Pros and cons of eating vegetables NO3 risk benefit Vegetable risk benefit metHb cancer host defence nitric oxide antinutrients health allergens macro/micro nutrients mycotoxins lifestyle contaminants pesticide residues EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition .

Weighing risks and benefits Vegetables c. EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . Athens.400g/day Net health impact Net Health Nitrate @ or below ADI Benefit vegetables Benefits ‘high’ Risks ‘low’ QA-LIBRA Quality of life balance Overall the estimated exposures to nitrate from vegetables are unlikely to result in appreciable health effects. 22.10.2010 . The beneficial effects of eating vegetables prevail.

Conclusions & recommendations .

35 . • Thus for the majority. • Nitrate reduces during processing & cooking & is low in fruit. vegetable nitrate intake is below the ADI. Consumption of 47 g rucola leads to an excursion of the ADI. • High level consumers may exceed the ADI two fold. • Minority of Europeans eat 400g vegetables/day.Conclusions • No need to revise the ADI for nitrate.

The recognised beneficial effects of consumption of vegetables prevail. • Overall. Occasionally circumstances (eg.Conclusions • General consensus that a balanced diet high in vegetables and fruit confers significant health benefits (reduction of non-communicable diseases). estimated exposures to nitrate from vegetables are unlikely to result in appreciable health risks. diets with high rucola) which need to be assessed on a case by case basis. 36 . unfavourable production conditions.

37 . • Monitoring of dietary habits of vegetables e. • Member States should submit individual analytical results on those crops regularly found to contain high nitrate levels. rucola • Continue efforts to progress in methodology for riskbenefit analysis of foods. storage and processing.g.Recommondation • Need for research into factors influencing nitrate levels during production.

22.eu/en/scdocs/scdoc/689.htm EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . EFSA-Q2006-071) is available at URL: http://www. Athens.10.efsa.2010 .europa.For further information The opinion of the CONTAM Panel related to nitrate in vegetables (question No.

2010 . 22.ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Working group members • Tom Addiscott • Piet van den Brandt • Andrew Cockburn (chair) • Maria-Luisa Fernandez-Cruz • Per Ola Danerud • Peter Fuerst • Gerrit Speijers • Philippe Verger • Hans Verhagen CONTAM Panel members 2006-2009 EFET Greek Focal Point of EFSA: Scientific challenges and directions for policy making in nutrition . Athens.10.

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