5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF) as a product of the Maillard reaction is found in many foods. Estimated intakes range between 4 and 30 mg per person and day, while an intake of up to 350 mg can result from, e.g., beverages made from dried plums. In vitro genotoxicity was positive when the metabolic preconditions for the formation of the reactive metabolite 5-sulphoxymethylfurfural were met. However, so far in vivo genotoxicity was negative. Results obtained in short-term model studies for 5-HMF on the induction of neoplastic changes in the intestinal tract were negative or cannot be reliably interpreted as "carcinogenic". In the only long-term carcinogenicity study in rats and mice no tumours or their precursory stages were induced by 5-HMF aside from liver adenomas in female mice, the relevance of which must be viewed as doubtful. Hence, no relevance for humans concerning carcinogenic and genotoxic effects can be derived. The remaining toxic potential is rather low. Various animal experiments reveal that no adverse effect levels are in the range of 80-100 mg/kg body weight and day. Safety margins are generally sufficient. However, 5-HMF exposure resulting from caramel colours used as food additives should be further evaluated.
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