News from Switzerland

5 February 2016

Bisphenol F found in mustard products

Swiss investigation finds endocrine substance occurs naturally in food

Bisphenol F (BPF), an industrial chemical used to make epoxy resins and coatings, has been found to be widespread in mustard products by the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).

The finding is surprising, as the chemical is not known to have significant natural sources. It is a close relative of the widely used polycarbonate and epoxy resin chemical bisphenol A (BPA), and has similar oestrogenic properties that may disrupt endocrine systems (CW 26 March 2015).

BPF is particularly used in heavy duty coatings such as:

  • tank and pipe linings;
  • industrial floors;
  • adhesives;
  • grouts; and
  • varnishes.

It is also included in some consumer products such as lacquers, dental sealants and food packaging.

A mustard manufacturer’s quality control measurements found BPF in its product and the company reported this.  The FSVO.has ruled out contamination and found the compound in many other brands of mustard.

In a survey of mustard on sale in Switzerland, the FSVO found 41 out of 61 samples contained BPF. All of this was of the 4,4’-isomer suggesting a natural rather than a technical source. The mean concentration was 1.84mg/kg and the maximum 8.35mg/kg.

The FSVO came to the conclusion that BPF was formed naturally during the processing of white mustard seeds (Sinapis alba). These are used mainly in mild mustard products and they concluded the compound was not formed from black or brown mustard seeds, used mainly in hotter mustard preparations.

The FSVO believes that the compound is formed from a gluconsinolate in the seeds called glucosinalbin in the presence of acetic acid or vinegar.

Based on a margin of exposure risk assessment using the lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) of BPF in rat laboratory studies, the FVSO has concluded that a person would need to eat 80g of mustard with the highest levels of BPF to reach the limit of safe exposure.

Average levels of Swiss mustard consumption are 1-2 grams per person per day, but with an extreme consumption as high as 88g/day. However, it is unlikely that all mustards would contain the highest levels.

The results have also been published as a scientific paper by FSVO staff in Food Additives and Contaminants. The paper notes that BPF has also been reported in Asian foods, such as canned bamboo shoots treated with vinegar, and certain orchid species used as Chinese medicines.

One of the authors, Dr Beat Brüschweiler, told Chemical Watch that the discovery of BPF as a natural food ingredient “sheds new light on the risks linked to the family of bisphenols”.

He also pointed out that BPF and another bisphenol relative, BPS, have been reported to be widespread in the environment, presumably from industrial sources. They are found in everyday products such as:

  • cosmetics;
  • paper items;
  • dairy foods;
  • meat;
  • vegetables;
  • canned foods; and
  • cereals.

They are also found in domestic and industrial wastewater. Philip Lightowlers

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