This study aimed to estimate the exposure to seven additives (benzoates, parabens, nitrites, nitrates, BHA, BHT and aspartame) in children aged less than 3 years old in France. A conservative approach, combining individual consumption data with maximum permitted levels, was carried out for all the additives. More refined estimates using occurrence data obtained from products' labels (collected by the French Observatory of Food Quality) were conducted for those additives that exceeded the acceptable daily intake (ADI). Information on additives' occurrence was obtained from the food labels. When the ADI was still exceeded, the exposure estimate was further refined using measured concentration data, if available. When using the maximum permitted level (MPL), the ADI was exceeded for benzoates (1.94 mg kg(-1) bw day(-1)), nitrites (0.09 mg kg(-1) bw day(-1)) and BHA (0.39 mg kg(-1) bw day(-1)) in 25%, 54% and 20% of the entire study population respectively. The main food contributors identified with this approach were current foods as these additives are not authorised in specific infant food: vegetable soups and broths for both benzoates and BHA, delicatessen and meat for nitrites. The exposure estimate was significantly reduced when using occurrence data, but in the upper-bound scenario the ADI was still exceeded significantly by the age group 13-36 months for benzoates (2%) and BHA (1%), and by the age group 7-12 months (16%) and 13-36 months (58%) for nitrites. Measured concentration data were available exclusively for nitrites and the results obtained using these data showed that the nitrites' intake was below the ADI for all the population considered in this study. These results suggest that refinement of exposure, based on the assessment of food levels, is needed to estimate the exposure of children to BHA and benzoates for which the risk of exceeding the ADI cannot be excluded when using occurrence data.
Keywords: BHA; BHT; acceptable daily intake (ADI); aspartame; benzoates; children; dietary exposure; food additive; infants; nitrates; nitrites; parabens.