Does that smokey flavor come with a health cost?

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Additives used to give meats, cheeses and other foods a “smokey flavor” may pose a health risk, according to initial results of an investigation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Officials researched the effect of 11 different smoke flavorings—which are added to food products, as opposed to flavor incorporated through traditional smoking processes—and found that, while most pose no measurable health risk, a few, including the additive known as Primary Product AM 01, may be toxic to humans when large concentrations are consumed. In animal tests, AM 01—which is derived from burning beech wood—was shown to slow weight gain and produce changes in the blood. Still, authorities from the European health organization emphasized that these initial warnings represent an excess of caution, and that the recent analysis deliberately examined high exposure levels unlikely to experienced by humans in every day life. One EFSA official explained to the Telegraph that humans would have to eat consume vast quantities of the smoke flavoring—20 times more than the normal amount—on a regular basis, to suffer any adverse health effects. That said, officials explained that the potential for harm in any quantity prompted the initial investigation, and that further study and analysis would be conducted to determine whether new restrictions or labeling requirements need to be issued.

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