Intake of phosphates: Babies, infants and children can exceed the health guidance values

July 16, 2019

They are added to a large number of foods to perform various technological functions, e.g. as acidity regulators. These include soft drinks, especially cola beverages, whipped cream and cream products, milk drinks, milk powder and coffee whitener, as well as meat products.

Within the scope of a re-evaluation published on 12 June 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) derived an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for phosphates. The ADI value of 40 mg/kg body weight per day expressed as phosphorus applies to the uptake of phosphorus from foods which can naturally contain phosphates and those to which phosphates can be added as a food additives.

EFSA derived the group ADI of 40 mg/kg body weight per day for healthy adults. It does not apply to people with a moderate to severe impairment of kidney function who constitutes a special risk group.

Infants, toddlers and children can exceed this value even with average consumption quantities. This also applies to adolescents with a phosphate-rich diet.

The acceptable daily intake for phosphate is the estimated maximum amount to which individuals may be exposed daily over their lifetimes without appreciable health risk. From a toxicological point of view therefore, total intake of phosphate should not result in an exceedance of the acceptable daily intake on a regular basis. EFSA recommends the introduction of maximum levels to reduce the levels of phosphates used as additives in food supplements. The European Commission is considering measures to lower phosphate levels in food. The BfR agrees with EFSA's scientific assessment.

Consumers cannot recognise how much phosphate is contained in unprocessed foods. For processed foods, the list of ingredients gives information on whether food additives containing phosphates are contained. EFSA estimates that food additives account for between 6 and 30 percent of average total phosphorus intake.

BfR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

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