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Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD 20740, USA
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INTRODUCTION
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Furan is a volatile ammable molecule that is clear, colorless, and waterinsoluble. It is used as an intermediate in the organic synthesis and production of compounds such as lacquers, resins, insecticides, and pharmaceuticals. Furan is used primarily as an intermediate in the synthesis and production of tetrahydrofuran, pyrrole, and thiophene. It is also used in the production of agricultural chemicals (insecticides), stabilizers, and pharmaceuticals. Furan is a by-product of high-energy radiation and thermal treatments of food and is found in a variety of foods and beverages, especially in certain processed foods, such as coffee, baked bread, and canned and jarred foods, including baby food. These techniques have long been essential methods of food preparation and preservation. Furan is also found in surface water, industrial ef uents, ambient air, human milk samples, and in the breath and urine of healthy humans. While furan has been known as a avor volatile for many years, only limited data on furan concentrations in various foods are available and estimates of dietary exposure are limited. For chronic hazards like furan, it is well recognized that the lifetime exposure is the most relevant measure. The best available dietary estimates of exposure to furan in the US population were initially developed by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) in 2004 (1) and later updated in 2007 (2).
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Process-Induced Food Toxicants: Occurrence, Formation, Mitigation, and Health Risks, Edited by Richard H. Stadler and David R. Lineback Copyright 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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HAZARDS OF DIETARY FURAN
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Furan: At a Glance
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Known as a avor volatile and already tentatively identi ed in the 1930s in roasted coffee. Some reports published on its occurrence in canned foods in the 1970s, and the primary route of formation was thought to be by thermal decomposition of carbohydrates. Because of its volatility, furan is best measured by a headspace sampling method followed by GC/MS. Fresh fruits and vegetables show little or no furan. Foods that are heat processed in cans and jars are typically found to contain highest amounts of furan, such as soups, pastas and sauces (gravies) with meat, and baby foods in jars. Coffee powders may contain up to 5 mg/kg on a dry weight basis. Several routes of formation and different precursors that may lead to furan in foods when exposed to heat have been identi ed, such as vitamin C, amino acids, reducing sugars, organic acids, carotenes, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). So far no speci c measures have been identi ed to mitigate furan formation in food. The reduction of the thermal load may be an avenue to explore in some products, but then within the broader context of food safety. Furan is an animal carcinogen and classi ed by IARC as a possible carcinogen to humans. NOAELs based on a 2-year bioassay have been identi ed for cytotoxicity and hepatocarcinogenicity of 0.5 and 2 mg/kg bw, respectively. Evidence indicates that the metabolite of furan, cis-2-butene-1,4-dial, plays an important role in furan-induced toxicity, including carcinogenesis, probably attributable to a genotoxic mechanism. No limits have been set to date in foods.
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More exposure data are needed, as well as dose-response data at lower dose levels, knowledge on formation of reactive metabolites and their dependency on dose. Studies on reproductive and developmental toxicity are also needed. http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/ dms/furanexp/sld09.htm. http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/04/slides/2004-4045s2-03-ihalov.pdf. Currently, no speci c recommendation can be made other than that there is no justi cation to make any changes in dietary habits.
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The presence of furan in foods is a potential concern because, based on animal tests, furan is considered possibly carcinogenic to humans (3). When administered chronically by gavage, furan induced an increase in the incidence of hepatic cholangiocarcinoma, hepatocellular adenoma and carcinoma, and mononuclear cell leukemia in male and female F344/N rats (4). When chroni-
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