Scientific opinion: Erucic acid in feed and food

Hoogenboom, L.A.P.


Erucic acid is the trivial name of the fatty acid cis-13-docosenoic acid and occurs at high concentrations mainly in the seeds of species of the Brassicaceae (e.g. rape seed or mustard seed). The European Commission requested EFSA to deliver a scientific opinion on the risks for animal and human health related to the presence of erucic acid in feed and food. For most humans, the main contributor to dietary exposure to erucic acid was the food group ‘Fine bakery wares’. In ‘Infants’, ‘Food for infants and small children’ was the main contributor to exposure. The heart is the principal target organ for toxic effects after exposure. Myocardial lipidosis was identified as the critical effect for chronic exposure to erucic acid. This effect is reversible and transient during prolonged exposure. A tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 7 mg/kg body weight (bw) per day for erucic acid was established, based on a no observed adverse effect level of 0.7 g/kg bw per day for lipidosis in young rats and newborn piglets. Mean chronic exposure of the different groups of the population did not exceed the TDI. The 95th percentile dietary exposure level was highest in infants and other children, ranging from 1.3 to 7.4 mg/kg bw per day; the higher level being at the level of the TDI. This may indicate a risk for young individuals with high erucic acid exposure. In pigs, levels of erucic acid are unlikely to represent a health concern. However, for poultry, the small margin between the lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) and the estimated exposure may indicate a health risk where maximum inclusion rates are applied. Due to the absence of adequate data, the risk for ruminants, horses, fish and rabbits could not be assessed.