3-MCPDE and GE in Palm Oil and Mitigation to Ensure Food Safety
Palm oil is the most traded and consumed vegetable oil in the world. This is confirmed by the USDA (2021) states that around 40 percent of vegetable oil consumed in the world is palm oil. Most of the use of palm oil is currently used for food products. This fact can also be proven from more than 50 percent of packaged food products sold in supermarkets around the world are containing palm oil. This shows that the role of palm oil as global source of foodstuff.
Behind the great role of palm oil in feeding the world, there are challenges that must be faced, one of which is related to food safety. In international discussions and regulations, food safety is the first and main requirement for declaring a product as a food product. As in the campaign that was promoted by FAO is “if it isn’t safe, it isn’t food”.
Indonesia as the largest palm oil producer in the world has a moral responsibility to ensure that palm oil-based food products meeting food safety standards. One of the references to international safety standards is CODEX ALIMENTARIUS.
In 2019, the latest CODEX standard adopted Code of Practices for reduction of 3-MCPD Ester and Glycidol Ester (GE) in refined oil and food products made with refined oils. MCPDE and GE contaminants are found in all food products including vegetable oils, which are processed at high temperatures.
In palm oil, these contaminants are formed during the refining process from CPO to RBDPO (Refined Bleached Deodorized Palm Oil), especially in the deodorization process to remove free fatty acids, odors, and colors, that is using temperatures of more than 225oC, as well as in the degumming and bleaching process to remove sap and other impurities using phosphoric acid and bleaching earth.
The 3-MCPD and Glycidol compounds are resulting from the hydrolysis of 3-MCPDE and GE which have a negative effect on the kidneys, central nervous system, and reproductive system in experimental animals. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), these compounds have the potential to be carcinogenic or can trigger cancer. It cause many institutions have limited their consumption by implementing tolerable daily intake (TDI) 3-MCPDE and GE in foodstuffs. For example, BPOM Indonesia has set a maximum limit of 3-MCPD contamination for foods that containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein in liquid (20 micrograms/kg) and solid (50 micrograms/kg) since 2009, however this egulation has not been applied to vegetable oils including palm oil.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as food safety authority proposing 3-MCPDE and GE limits of a maximum of 2.5 ppm and 1 ppm, respectively. This proposal has been approved by the European Union Commission and stipulated in the Commission Regulation (EU) 2020/1322 which will be implemented starting January 2021 or in several food components that will be applied in June 2021.
European Union’s regulation has potential to hamper the palm oil trade. Because based on EFSA research states that the content of 3-MCPDE and GE in palm oil is the highest among other vegetable oils, which is 3-7 ppm and 3-11 ppm, respectively. In addition to inhibiting the trade in palm oil, the contaminant limit in EU regulation is also considered to discriminate against palm oil because the 3-MCPDE level for vegetable oil produced by European Union countries is lower, specifically 1.25 ppm. Discrimination on the difference in safety level between vegetable oils has received a rejection response from the CPOPC which accommodates the global palm oil producer countries.
Apart from the issue of palm oil discrimination in that EU regulations, Prof. Purwayitno Hariyadi in a webinar initiated by the Majalah Sawit Indonesia recommends systematic efforts to reduce the content of 3-MCPDE and GE by carrying out Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufactural Practices (GMP), and also modification of a process and selection in the use of palm oil for food products.
Professor of Food Engineering of IPB University who also serves as Vice-Chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission also revealed that the Indonesian government’s efforts to control 3-MCPDE and GE content in palm oil in accordance with the Code of Practices have not been seen until now, even though the implementation of EU regulations related to these contaminants are starting to be implemented.
Even though there has been no serious step from the Indonesian Government about the content of 3-MCPDE and GE in palm oil, BPDPKS through Program Grant Riset Sawit provides research funding support to mitigate this issue.
One of the studies referred to research is chaired by Prof. Nuri Andarwulan from IPB University succeeded in preparing the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) for CPO production as an effort to reduce the precursors of 3-MCPDE and GE in palm oil as well as surveillance for the preparation of safety monitoring procedures. Meanwhile, Dr. Elvy Restiawaty from ITB has successfully developed a 3-MCPDE and GE removal process in palm oil (RBDPO) by utilizing the performance of a solid adsorbent commonly used to remove chlorine compounds. The adsorbent used is made from the activated synthetic zeolite.
The results of this research are expected to be a solution in reducing the contaminant content and be immediately followed up by the government and palm oil stakeholders in developing mechanisms for mitigating standards and regulations on 3-MCPDE and GE content in palm oil. So that the implementation of these regulation is a Indonesia’s responsibility as the largest palm oil producer in the world to provide and ensure the safety of palm oil-based food products (feeding the world).
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