The present opinion deals with the re-evaluation of thaumatin (E 957) when used as a food additive. Thaumatin is a natural plant protein, consisting of thaumatin I and thaumatin II proteins together with minor amounts of plant constituents, obtained by acidic aqueous extraction of the arils of the fruit of Thaumatococcus daniellii plant. The Panel followed the conceptual framework for the risk assessment of certain food additives and considered that thaumatin is a digestible protein; adequate exposure estimates were available; there was no concern with respect to the genotoxicity; no conclusion on oral allergenicity could be drawn from the available human data; no adverse effects were observed in sub-chronic toxicity studies in rats and dogs at the highest dose tested of up 5,200 and 1,476 mg/kg bodyweight (bw) per day, respectively, and in a prenatal developmental toxicity study up to 2,000 mg/kg bw per day; moderate confidence in the body of evidence supported the absence of association between exposure to thaumatin and adverse health outcomes. Therefore, the Panel concluded that there is no need for a numerical acceptable daily intake (ADI) for thaumatin (E 957) and, based on a margin of safety (MOS) of 5,417, considered to be an underestimate and derived using the highest 95th percentile (P95) exposure of 0.48 mg/kg bw per day in consumers only, there is no safety concern for thaumatin (E 957) at the regulatory maximum level exposure assessment scenario, which was considered the most appropriate. The Panel recommended that European Commission considers introducing in the EU specifications for thaumatin (E 957) a new specification limit for the minimum combined content of thaumatin I and II proteins in E 957, a specification limit for yeast, mould counts and Salmonella spp and lowering the existing maximum limit for arsenic along with the inclusion of maximum limits for mercury and cadmium.
In accordance with European regulations, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to undertake a re-evaluation of all food additives permitted for use in the European Union before January 2009, including low/no calories sweeteners. The re-evaluation of thaumatin is a part of this process.
In their review, EFSA’s scientific experts assessed the totality of the available scientific evidence, including toxicological, intake and epidemiological data and concluded that thaumatin is safe for use in food and beverages and that there are no safety concerns at current exposure levels.
This reconfirms results of previous evaluations conducted by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), and other regulatory authorities around the world, including member states of the European Union.