Due to Risk of Liver Damage, EU Limits Green Tea Extract with EGCG in Foods
New EU legislation restricts the amount of green tea extract containing (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) that can be present in food and sets new labeling requirements. EGCG is a catechin, which are flavinols that may lead to liver damage.
Catechins, of which EGCG is the most common type, are found naturally in the leaves of Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze, the plant that is processed into green tea. A 2018 scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that consumption of EGCG exceeding 800 milligrams per day (mg/day) may increase the likelihood of liver damage when taken as a food supplement. EFSA’s determination was based on studies that revealed a statistically significant increase of serum transaminases, which are indicative of liver injury, in subjects given EGCG supplements.
Despite containing EGCG, it is considered generally safe to consume catechins from traditionally prepared green tea infusions and reconstituted drinks with an equivalent composition. Among the adult population in the EU, the mean daily intake of EGCG from the consumption of green tea infusions ranges from 90–300 mg/day, while those who ingest EGCG supplemented products may consume an estimated 866 mg EGCG/day. Food supplements containing green tea catechins provide a daily dose of EGCG in the range of 5–1,000 mg/day, according to EFSA.
In its opinion, EFSA could not provide advice on a dietary intake of green tea catechins due to the varied chemical composition of catechins, including EGCG, affected by plant variety, growing conditions, and other factors. Additionally, there are uncertainties on how the composition of extracted catechins and other substances used to prepare green tea extracts is influenced by manufacturing procedures.
Based on EFSA’s opinion, the European Commission amended Annex III of Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 to establish new limits for EGCG in foods. The legislation suggests a daily intake level of EGCG from green tea extracts at 800 mg/day, but recommends studies be conducted to determine a dose-response of hepatotoxicity of green tea catechins, and examine inter- and intra-species variability. The compound will be further reviewed within the EU, and the permitted daily dose may be changed within four years.
Food Safety Magazine, 07-12-22