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Risk assessment of nitrate and nitrite in feed


Published on: Wed, 04 Nov 2020

The European Commission asked EFSA for a scientific opinion on the risks to animal health related to nitrite and nitrate in feed. For nitrate ion, the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) identified a BMDL10 of 64 mg nitrate/kg body weight (bw) per day for adult cattle, based on methaemoglobin (MetHb) levels in animal's blood that would not induce clinical signs of hypoxia. The BMDL10 is applicable to all bovines, except for pregnant cows in which reproductive effects were not clearly associated with MetHb formation. Since the data available suggested that ovines and caprines are not more sensitive than bovines, the BMDL10 could also be applied to these species. Highest mean exposure estimates of 53 and 60 mg nitrate/kg bw per day in grass silage‐based diets for beef cattle and fattening goats, respectively, may raise a health concern for ruminants when compared with the BMDL10 of 64 mg nitrate/kg bw per day. The concern may be higher because other forages might contain higher levels of nitrate. Highest mean exposure estimates of 2.0 mg nitrate/kg bw per day in pigs’ feeds indicate a low risk for adverse health effects, when compared with an identified no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) of 410 mg nitrate/kg bw per day, although the levels of exposure might be underestimated due to the absence of data on certain key ingredients in the diets of this species. Due to the limitations of the data available, the CONTAM Panel could not characterise the health risk in species other than ruminants and pigs from nitrate and in all livestock and companion animals from nitrite. Based on a limited data set, both the transfer of nitrate and nitrite from feed to food products of animal origin and the nitrate‐ and nitrite‐mediated formation of N‐nitrosamines and their transfer into these products are likely to be negligible.

This publication is linked to the following EFSA Supporting Publications article:

© European Food Safety Authority, 2015

Risk assessment of nitrate and nitrite in feed

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