PROPYLENE GLYCOL DRINKS - Determination of propylene glycol levels in foodstuffs and exposure assessment for the Belgian population

Last updated on 14-12-2022 by Pierre Daubresse
Project duration:
December 1, 2019
January 22, 2021

In short

Propane-1,2-diol, more commonly called propylene glycol (E1520) is a food additive that can be present in flavoured drinks, such as juice, nectar, iced tea, cola, sports and energy drinks, flavoured milk drinks and milk analogues (e.g. soya beverages). It is authorised as a carrier* in colours, emulsifiers, antioxidants, enzymes, flavourings and nutrients. Because E1520 is not authorised to be directly added to food, it is not mandatory to report its presence on the label.

In this project, Sciensano monitors levels of E1520 in non-alcoholic drinks, as well as their contribution to the total exposure by the Belgian population.

* A carrier is a substance used to dissolve, dilute, disperse or otherwise physically modify a food additive or a flavouring, food enzyme, nutrient and/or other substance added for nutritional or physiological purposes without altering its function (and without exerting any technological effect themselves) in order to facilitate its handling, application or use.

Project description

For beverages (except cream liquors), propylene glycol is approved up to 1000 mg/L. To generate occurrence level in beverages, Sciensano developed and validated a suitable analytical method for the quantification of E1520 using an isotope dilution based LC-MS/MS.

In total, 182 samples were analysed, including juices, nectars, ice-teas, colas, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavoured milk drinks, milk analogues and other types of drinks. We purchased the samples between March and May 2020 in major supermarkets in Brussels. Next, we applied the analytical method for monitoring and surveillance of this food additive in non-alcoholic drinks.

To estimate the contribution to the total dietary exposure of the Belgian population, we consulted the consumption database (based on the 2014 national survey) as well as the E1520 levels reported in EFSA Opinion (2018).


  • E1520 was found in 66% of the samples with concentrations ranging from 2.8 mg/L up to 3420 mg/L. Interestingly, 26% of the samples contained levels below the maximum permitted level of 1000 mg/L but above the level of 300 mg/L reported by industry to EFSA as typical use level in drinks. 
  • The current survey also showed 5 samples out of 182 were above the maximum permitted level of 1000 mg/L.
  • Using maximum measured concentrations of E1520 in soft drinks (“brand-loyal scenario”), resulted in mean estimated exposure ranging from 3.3 mg/kg bw/day in adults, 6.3 mg/kg bw/day in adolescents and 8.5 mg/kg bw/day in children and toddlers.
  • In exceptional cases (99th percentile) children may be exposed to E1520 levels above the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 25 mg/kg body weight/day

Sciensano's project investigator(s):

Service(s) working on this project

Associated Health Topics

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