Report seminar 3-MCPD esters


Location: VNAB, Rotterdam
Date: Tuesday 2 November 2021; Time: 12.30 – 17.30 h
Organized by MVO- The Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry, Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR) and the NEN standard committee 'Vegetable and animal oils and fats'


The oils and fats industry has made great efforts in recent years to reduce 3-monochloropropane diol (3-MCPD), 3-MCPD fatty acid esters (3-MCPDE) and glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE) levels in products for all consumers. Since January 2021, oils and fats must comply with the maximum levels set by the European Commission for 3-MCPD. Meanwhile, researchers have focused on developing mitigation methods to reduce formation during oil refining, among other things, and very recently a new international analytical method (ISO 18363-4:2021) has been developed and validated to determine 3-MCPDE and GE in animal and vegetable fats and oils. Nowadays, the discussion has moved to food products intended for final consumers.

The seminar was opened by organizer Sanneli Kingma, policy advisor Food- & Feed safety at MVO. On behalf of MVO, WFSR, and NEN the audience was welcomed. Jikke Voerman, consultant at NEN, was the moderator for the rest of the day and she introduced all speakers and rounded- up the seminar.

The first presentation was given by Sergio Oey, PhD Student at WUR, he gave an insight in the results of the REFINE project. In a pilot plant, hosted by SRC, refining process steps are tested in order to learn more about the pathways to the generation of 3-MCPDE and GE. The ultimate goal is to come up with mitigation strategies for simultaneous reducing process contaminants, like 3-MCPDE, 2-MCPDE and GE. As a result; optimized double physical refining, with a difference in deodorization temperature as key difference, was highlighted. It showed promising results in reducing GE. Another strategy, optimizing the chemical refining process, showed all contaminants were simultaneously reduced. In the end, the experiments have shown that 2-, 3-MCPDE, and GE can be effectively reduced all at once with an optimized chemical refining method. Further research is however required to pinpoint the specific precursors which are an opportunity to further reduce 2- and 3-MCPDE concentrations.

The second speaker, René Blok, Global Analytical Development Manager at Bunge Loders Croklaan presented the new international analytical method (ISO 18363-4:2021) for 2- and 3-MCPDE and GE in vegetable oils, on behalf of the NEN. The presentation focused on the efforts and motivation of Bunge Loders Croklaan to develop this method and path to standardization. René highlighted the importance of workable and usable methods in an (industrial) operational environment. This new method is explicitly fast, specific and reliable perfectly to be used in a strategy for Quality control and process optimization. To combine science with a pragmatic approach and keeping in mind that automation can be very helpful. Besides that, looking for possibilities, share social responsibility and align with experts to reach standardization in food safety is important for the entire industry.

Following the presentations in science, Iekje Berg, Food Scientist at Sime Darby Oils, presented the challenges the industry faces to reduce 3-MCPD esters in a day-to-day working environment. Several key elements were presented like the critical conditions to have 3-MCPD esters formed, including the presence of chlorine precursors, high temperature and type of bleaching earth. Because 3-MCPD and its esterified form cannot easily be removed from the oils once they are formed, precautions have to be taken at the plantation (to reduce precursors) and during refining to prevent formation of 3-MCPD(E). The mentioned solutions were the removal of the chlorine precursors prior to refining by washing the oil or using chemical neutralization, optimized bleaching earth (no acidic conditions) and/or dual bleaching, and physical refining under specific conditions. However, new processes -like water washing and double refining- have higher costs because of reduced capacity and higher oil losses because of increased amounts of bleaching earth and water treatment. At the plantation level, work should be done to improve quality of the raw materials like lower levels of total chlorine in crude oils (coming from soil and fertilizers).

Moving on to the current developments regarding 3-MCPD(E) formation in compound foods Jan Kuhlmann, Laboratory head Chromatography at SGS Germany gave a presentation about other processes and potential new formation of 3 MCPD(E) beyond refining of oils- and fats. Laboratories have analyzed ready-to-eat foods which were bought from the supermarket or at cafeteria in which indeed 3-MCPD(E) was found, even though the oil in these foods complied. Explanations are for example the migration of free 3- MCPD from food contact materials such as kitchen towels, or plastic vessels into foods; which was showed in some experiments. Another source could come from frequently used ingredients and additives. Experiments in deep-frying of fish and meat starting at common frying temperatures showed significant formation of 3-MCPD(E) during the process. This effect was shown to occur also in case of industrial frying of fish. In conclusion, refined oils- and fats, used as food ingredients, are not a reliable origin for the detected levels of 3- MCPD(E) in the compound food. Besides, for several compound foods there currently is a lack of officially validated analytical methods.

The seminar was finalized with a presentation from Frans Verstraete, Directorate General for Health and Food Safety at the European Commission, about legislation. At the moment maximum levels for 3-MCPD(E) and GE apply to oils and fats, infant formula, follow-on formula and young child formula. By regulating 3-MCPD(E) it is for now assumed that 2-MCPD(E) is automatically regulated as well, as no risk assessment could be made so far for 2-MCPD(E), no separate maximum levels can be set. These assumptions can change when new data becomes available. Furthermore there is a need to regulate levels of 3-MCPD(E) and GE in certain compound foods due to findings of unacceptably high levels in compound food as can be observed in several RASFF notifications. There are currently two options to regulate this as proposed by the European Commission. The first option includes a guidance related to the oils- and fats content of the food. The second option are explicitly defined maximum levels for a list of various compound foods. These maximum levels will be implemented on 1 January 2023 at the earliest, but many factors could still affect the process. The majority of Member States are currently in favor of the second option. Accordingly a mandate for the EURL will be made to define and elaborate on the analytical methods.

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Laatst aangepast op 20 februari, 2023