2008-2009 Dioxins in Guar Gum from India

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to test various foods for specific hazards.

Guar gum is a food additive commonly used as an emulsifier and stabilizer in processed food. It is generally a minor ingredient in food stuffs but is found in a wide variety of food products. In 2007, the European Commission discovered serious contamination of guar gum with dioxins and pentachlorophenol originating from India. As a result, a targeted survey was initiated in order to assess the levels of dioxin in guar gum originating from India.

The main objectives of the dioxins in guar gum survey were:

  • To obtain a snapshot of the levels of dioxins in guar gum originating from India, an origin with a history of contamination.
  • To assess whether there is merit in continuing to monitor guar gum imported from India for dioxins.

A total of 20 samples of guar gum originating from India were collected in this survey. Guar gum was sampled from importers who were importing guar gum for use in food or feed. All samples were analyzed in a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) laboratory for dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Of the 20 samples tested, all contained measurable residues of dioxins. There is no standard for the presence of dioxins in food in Canada. However, as it is expected that dioxin may be present at very low levels, it has been suggested by the European Commission (EC) that a toxic equivalent (TEQ) of 0.75 ng TEQ/kg product be adopted in order to determine if guar gum samples contain higher than background levels of dioxin contamination. All but one of the samples analyzed had total TEQ dioxin levels lower than the EC's suggested standard. This one sample had 2.731 ng TEQ/kg total weight.

Bearing in mind that the Canadian Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) lists the maximum use rate of guar gum as an ingredient in processed foods as 1.0%, levels of dioxin and dioxin-like chemicals in guar gum samples would not pose an unacceptable health risk provided the guar gum is used in accordance with provisions found within the FDR.

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