Food Standards Agency
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Update on fruit glazed with wax containing morpholine

The Agency held a meeting on Wednesday 6 October with representatives of the food industry, to further investigate the use of the non-permitted additive morpholine on fresh produce on sale in the UK.

‘Waxes containing morpholine aren’t allowed under EU rules and shouldn’t be on food products’

Morpholine is used in glazes on fresh produce and is permitted in various countries outside of the EU, including South Africa, Chile, the USA and Canada. No application has been made to approve this additive in the EU, therefore it should not be present on food on sale in member states.

The meeting was informed that waxes containing morpholine have been applied to some citrus fruit imported into the UK and possibly into other member states. This is in addition to the information received via a sampling programme that morpholine has been found on some waxed apples imported to the UK from Chile.

The Agency has undertaken an initial risk assessment based on information currently available. Exposure to morpholine at the levels detected on the apples is likely to be of low risk to consumers. Food business operators have already been advised that apples treated with a wax containing morpholine should not be on sale in the UK.

Furthermore, from the information supplied to the Agency by food industry representatives, the Agency has undertaken a further initial risk assessment for people consuming citrus fruit that has been treated with wax containing morpholine and this is also likely to be of low risk to consumers.

The Agency has written to food businesses to ask them to ensure that all future imports of fresh produce are not treated with wax containing morpholine and that such produce entering the UK is compliant with current EU legislation. The Agency has asked local authorities to help by giving advice to businesses.

Dr Alison Gleadle, Director of Food Safety at the FSA, said: ‘Waxes containing morpholine aren’t allowed under EU rules and shouldn’t be on food products. However, eating any of the fruit is unlikely to be a health concern. We asked industry to remove the apples from the food chain because they are usually eaten unpeeled but we won’t be asking food businesses to take any citrus fruits off shelves or ask consumers not to consume them because they are generally peeled before eating. Industry has assured us it has now put in place systems that will ensure that waxed produce coming into the country is compliant with EU legislation.’

The Agency will update on this issue as further information becomes available.

Science behind the story

What is morpholine?
Morpholine is an emulsifier that enables wax to be mixed with water.

What else can be used to give the same effect?
There’s a list in EU legislation that includes Lecithins (E322) and fatty acids (E570)

Approval process for these sorts of substances
Approval of a food additive is by collective agreement of the member states of the European Union and the European Parliament. Approval is only given to substances that have received a favourable safety assessment.

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