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Unsafe: BgVV recommends maximum levels for isolated beta-carotene

05/2001, 31.01.2001

At present, manufacturers are not supposed to use it in vitamin-enriched foods Beta-carotene (Provitamin A) is a natural component in various types of fruit and vegetables which are purported to offer protection against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, it is authorised as a food additive. Based on the assumption that the health-promoting effect of specific types of fruit and vegetables is based on the beta-carotene they contain, it is increasingly being offered by manufacturers in isolated forms in food supplements but also in beverages and dairy products.

More recent scientific studies, however, show that in isolated form beta-carotene can already damage health in heavy smokers and people with cardiovascular disorders at a daily intake of 20mg. Until maximum levels have been laid down, BgVV therefore calls on manufacturers to no longer use isolated beta-carotene. BgVV recommends the laying down of maximum levels for beta-carotene which ensure that per day a total of no more than 2 mg beta-carotene in isolated form is taken in, i.e. 10% of the dose which proved damaging in a study for heavy smokers. At present, food supplements are on the market which, according to the consumption recommendations of the manufacturers, could lead to an intake of 10 to 20 mg/day and more. Furthermore, some beverages contain 36 mg admixed beta-carotene per litre. On the products beta-carotene is merely declared as provitamin A which acts as a precursor to vitamin A.

From the nutritional angle there is no need for the admixture of beta-carotene as vitamin A supply in Germany is more than sufficient. Extensive studies were not able to confirm the presumptive health-promoting effect of isolated beta-carotene. It was far more the case that in heavy smokers the administration of isolated beta-carotene led to an increase in the lung cancer rate and an increase in the number of deaths in conjunction with existing cardiovascular disorders.

BgVV already pointed out in 1998 (cf. Press Release 02/1998 of 30 January ) the potential health risk for heavy smokers from beta-carotene. With this recommendation BgVV is taking on board the most recent assessment of the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Union. It has revoked the valid ADI value for the safe daily intake of beta-carotene of 5 mg/kg body weight on the basis of the new scientific findings and advises caution when using beta-carotene in food supplements. Amounts below 1-2 mg/day which are taken in as food additives do not constitute a risk to health according to SCF. A new ADI value was not laid down by SCF.

The opinion of BgVV on beta-carotene in conjunction with the assessment of the Scientific Committee on Food can be found on the Internet on:


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