Vitamin D risk highlighted by European Food Safety Authority

Shiga toxin-producing E albertii and children overdosing on Vitamin D are among topics on the radar of European authorities, according to a recent report.

Eighteen potential emerging issues were discussed in 2021 and eight were judged to be emerging risks, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

EFSA networks contributing to the topic include the Emerging Risks Exchange Network (EREN), the Stakeholder Discussion Group on Emerging Risks, EFSA’s scientific units, scientific panels and the Scientific Committee.

In four of the issues discussed in 2021, a change in consumer trends was identified as a driver. Six were classed as microbiological hazards and four as chemical.

Example emerging risks
One emerging risk was vitamin D in health supplements. French health authorities had been alerted to several cases of severe hypercalcemia and hospitalisation in previously healthy infants who had taken vitamin D in the form of food supplements.

In 2019 and 2020, Poison Control Centres were called for after at least 23 overdoses following consumption of a vitamin D-containing supplement for children. In 2020, two serious cases of vitamin D poisoning were reported to ANSES following infants taking supplements bought on the internet. In 2021, another case of extreme hypercalcemia was reported by a pediatric hospital. Countries were advised to check with pediatricians at the national level to see if there was a trend in babies overdosing on vitamin D.

Another topic was Shiga toxin-producing E. albertii. The natural reservoir of E. albertii is unclear but such information is needed to determine transmission dynamics and prevent infections. Countries were asked to collect data on incidence, prevalence in humans and risk exposure pathways to better characterize the hazard.

The potential health risks of coconut oil were also flagged. Experts said further research was needed to strengthen the evidence basis on potential toxicity and countries were told to check national data to see if an increasing trend in food consumption of coconut oil could be confirmed.

Brevetoxins in French shellfish were mentioned. These are marine biotoxins responsible for neurotoxic shellfish poisoning after eating contaminated shellfish. They are not regulated in Europe. Scientists said monitoring of Brevetoxins in European waters was recommended.