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Morpholine Issues in the United Kingdom

September 28, 2010

BACKGROUND: On September 23, 2010, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced that it would meet according to its Incident Response Protocol to obtain further information from food business operators on the presence of morpholine in food products destined for the UK.  The genesis for the meeting was the detection of morpholine (at up to 2 ppm) on apples from Chile.  FSA suspects that morpholine was used as an ingredient in the applied wax coating.

Under European Union food additives legislation (EC Regulation 1333/2008) morpholine is not approved for use as a food glazing agent for fresh fruits in the EU and, as such, product treated with this additive should not be placed on the market for sale.  The use of morpholine as an ingredient of wax coating for fruit is permitted in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

FSA has undertaken an initial risk-assessment which suggests exposure to morpholine at the levels detected is likely to be of no more than low risk to consumer health. A more comprehensive risk-assessment is being developed by that agency.

Based on a three year average, Washington state exports 1 million cartons (40# carton) of apples per year to the United Kingdom.  Roughly twenty-five percent of that volume is for the organic market.  Organic apples may not be waxed.  If they are, morpholine should not be part of the formulation. 

CURRENT SITUATION:  Today, September 28, FSA requested that the Fresh Produce Consortium, a UK trade association, contact importers of fruit from the U.S., Canada and Chile to seek reassurance from suppliers that they are not importing produce treated with the non-permitted additive morpholine.  

CONTACT:  For additional information contact Mark Powers or Dr. Mike Willett, Northwest Horticultural Council at 509/453-3193.

    Northwest Horticultural Council
    105 South 18th Street, Suite 105
    Yakima, Washington 98901, USA
    Voice: (509) 453-3193, Fax: (509) 457-7615

    E-mail general@nwhort.org