The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has updated its advice on semicarbazide, saying there is no reason to change current dietary habits, but recommending the industry takes precautionary action for baby foods.

In July the EFSA alerted EU member states to possible findings of semicarbazide, a chemical that may cause cancer, in some foods sold in jars.

The agency said it carried out a risk assessment based on the most recent evidence made available to its scientific panel. While results are not conclusive at this time, the EFSA said it has become clear that semicarbazide is present in certain foods in very small quantities.

However, the agency said the risk to the consumer – if any – is judged by scientific experts to be very small, not only for adults but also for infants.

Nevertheless experts believe it would be prudent to reduce the presence of semicarbazide in baby foods as swiftly as technological progress allows.

The EFSA therefore recommended that the European Commission put in place a monitoring programme to ensure that the industry implements alternative packaging solutions in a timely manner focusing on baby foods as an immediate priority.

In the interim, EFSA’s scientific experts advised no change to current dietary habits.

Martin Paterson, deputy director general of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation welcomed the European Food Safety Authority advice and said that a joint food and packaging industry taskforce is now working with the authorities to eliminate semicarbazide from the metal twist caps used with glass jars.