Phosphate can be naturally present in certain food such as pumpkin seeds, lentils, sunflower seeds, etc. Phosphate is a derivative of phosphorus, a mineral needed by the body, especially for the growth function of bones and teeth. Phosphate – “inorganic phosphate” – can also be added to some food products as emulsifier, antioxidant or acidifying agent. Phosphate is thus both a nutrient and a food additive. Phosphate food additives are authorised for 108 different uses in the EU and are often present in bread and fine bakery wares, processed cheese, sugar, syrups, infant and young children food, drinking milk and sodas.
In June 2019, European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings added to Food released a scientific opinion re-evaluating the safety of phosphate. For the first time, EFSA suggested a phosphate acceptable daily intake that would be protective for our health (40 mg per kilogram body weight per day expressed as phosphorus). Ingesting large doses is not recommended. Once absorbed by the human body, phosphate is then excreted and filtered by the kidneys, therefore, ingesting too large doses could induce renal impairment. The phosphate-based additives are still present in many infant and young children foods such as processed cereal-based foods, fruit-based desserts, biscuits and rusks for babies and infants, dietary foods for infants for special medical purposes and special formulae for infants.
SAFE encourages the reduction or elimination of the overall exposure level. Food additives that significantly increase the level of phosphate consumption should be reduced and eliminated from our foods, in particular in foods for infants and children. This is all the more relevant as their role in food is not very important.