Chemicals other than nutrients in food are contaminants and can naturally occur or be introduced by food processing (cooking, fermentation, refining, etc.). Cooking at high temperature for example, can generate many contaminants: MCPD and glycidyl esters, acrylamide, PAHs,etc.

Mérieux NutriSciences - Analysis in food of 3-MCPD, 2-MCPD, Glycidoland their esters

3-MCPD esters, 2-MCPD esters and Glycidyl Esters (GE)

Esters of 3-MCPD (3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol), 2-MCPD (2-monochloropropane-1,2-diol), and Glycidyl Esters (GE) are food contaminants that naturally form during high temperature oil refining (> 200 ° C), especially refined vegetable oils.

Their concentration varies depending on the type of oil and food processing; however, it is higher in the much disputed palm oils and fats (EFSA, 2016), that are widely used in the food industry.

GE and MCPD esters abound in everyday processed foods: in vegetable and animal oils and fats, in snacks, crackers, biscuits, breakfast cereals, bakery products, potato chips, canned smoked meat, but also powdered milk and infant formulas (EFSA, 2016).

The presence of such esters raised much concern for all age groups: once ingested, they are completely transformed (≈100%, according to EFSA) into their free forms: 3-MCPD, 2-MCPD and glycidol, which are toxic and carcinogenic.


Free forms: 3-MCPD, 2-MCPD and glycidol

2-MCPD, 3-MCPD and glycidol are contaminants that stem from food processing.

3-MCPD and glycidol are genotoxic and carcinogenic; as for 2-MPCD, the toxicological evaluation is still ongoing.

3-MCPD was identified in soy sauce and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (flavor enhancer) and Regulation (EC) no. 1881/2006 envisages maximum levels, limited to these matrices.

However, the new data on the massive presence of esters in a wide range of everyday food then transformed into the corresponding toxic free forms, have raised further concern for human health.

The European Commission has been working for a long time to limit the presence of 3-MCPDs and GEs in food.

Regulation (EU) no. 2018/290 of 26 February 2018 was published: it amends Regulation (EC) no. 1881/2006 on the maximum levels of Glycidyl Esters (GE) in vegetable oils and fats, in infant and follow-on formulas, in food for special medical purposes for early childhood. The Regulation will enter into force next March 19, the twentieth day after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Mérieux NutriSciences - Limits MCPD GE table


What is still missing is an update of the limits and application fields for 3-MCPD and its esters, on which EFSA and JECFA (FAO/WHO) have finally reached an agreement at toxicological level on the possible risks and harmful effects on consumers’ health. As a consequence, a new intervention by the European Commission to limit its presence in food is expected shortly.

Mérieux NutriSciences has a long experience in the management of food contaminants and offers accredited analyzes in food of:

  • 2-MCPD (2-Monochloropropane-1,2-diol)
  • 3-MCPD (3-Monochloropropane-1,2-diol)
  • 2-MCPD esters
  • 3-MCPD esters


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