EU regulators rethink ethoxyquin safety

Ethoxyquin was authorized in the EU as a food additive for all animal species and categories until 2017, for its antioxidant properties. The material is also used to prevent the spontaneous combustion of fishmeal during sea transport. Recently, EFSA re-evaluated the food additive and could not conclude on its safety for certain animals, consumers and the environment.

The presence of p-phenetidine, an impurity which remains in the additive after the manufacturing process and which is a possible mutagen (i.e. capable of causing mutations in the genetic material of animals and humans) has led the experts of the Scientific Panel on Additives and Products of EFSA or Substances used in animal feed could not exclude risks for animals with a long life expectancy and those raised for reproduction. On the other hand, the additive is considered safe for animals raised for meat production such as chickens, pigs, cattle, rabbits and fish.

Due to the lack of data on the presence of p-phenetidine in tissues and food products of animal origin, the experts could not draw any conclusions for consumers either.

The Panel highlighted the need to minimize user exposure through inhalation due to the presence of this impurity in the additive.

Experts could not conclude on the safety of ethoxyquin for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems when the additive is used in terrestrial animals. A risk of contamination via the aquatic food chain cannot be excluded, as well as a risk for organisms living in marine sediments exposed to ethoxyquin when used in marine cages.

The European Commission and Member States, as risk managers, will take EFSA’s opinion into account when considering the suspension of the additive’s authorisation.


In June 2017, the European Commission suspended the authorization of ethoxyquin as a feed additive for all animal species. The suspension followed an EFSA opinion published in 2015, in which experts could not conclude on the safety of the additive due to a general lack of data and the presence of p-phenetidine.

Click here to read EFSA’s full opinion.

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