Malachite green in food

Jans Alexander, Lars Barregård, Margherita Bignami, Sandra Ceccatelli, Bruce Cottrill, Michael Dinovi, Lutz Edler, Bettina Grasl-Kraupp, Christer Hogstrand, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Carlo Stefano Nebbia, Isabelle Oswald, Annette Petersen, Vera Maria Rogiers, Martin Rose, Alain-Claude Roudot, Tanja Schwerdtle, Christiane Vleminckx, Günter VollmerHeather Wallace, EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM)

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Malachite green (MG) has been used globally in aquaculture but is not registered for use in food-producing animals in the European Union. The European Commission requested EFSA to evaluate whether a reference point for action (RPA) of 2 μg/kg for the sum of MG and its major metabolite leucomalachite green (LMG) is adequate to protect public health. Available occurrence data were not suitable for a reliable exposure assessment. The hypothetical dietary exposure was calculated, considering the RPA as occurrence value for all types of fish, fish products and crustaceans. Mean dietary exposure across different European dietary surveys and age classes would range from 0.1 to 5.0 ng/kg body weight (bw) per day. For high and frequent fish consumers, the exposure would range from 1.3 to 11.8 ng/kg bw per day. Both MG and LMG induced formation of DNA adducts in livers of rats and/or mice, and of micronuclei in mice. LMG also induced cII transgene mutations in mouse liver. MG caused a small, not dose-related, increase in thyroid gland follicular adenomas and carcinomas, and of mammary gland carcinomas in female rats. LMG caused an increase in hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas in female mice. Both MG and LMG may be considered as carcinogenic and as genotoxic in vivo. A lower 95% confidence limit for a benchmark response of 10% extra risk (BMDL10) of 13 mg/kg bw per day for hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas was selected as reference point for neoplastic effects. For non-neoplastic effects, a lower 95% confidence limit for a benchmark response of 5% extra risk (BMDL05) of 6 mg/kg bw per day was selected for the effect of MG on liver weight and of LMG on body weight. The margins of exposure were 1.1 × 106 or greater for neoplastic effects and 4.9 × 105 or greater for non-neoplastic effects. The CONTAM Panel concluded that it is unlikely that exposure to food contaminated with MG/LMG at or below the RPA of 2 μg/kg represents a health concern.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere04530
Pages (from-to)1-80
Number of pages80
JournalEFSA Journal
Issue number7
Early online date4 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

The Panel wishes to thank the members of the Standing Working Group on non-allowed pharmacologically active substances in food and feed and their reference points for action (2015–2018): Metka Filipič, Peter Fürst, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Anne-Katrine Lundebye, Carlo Stefano Nebbia, Michael O'Keeffe and Rolaf Van Leeuwen for the preparatory work on this scientific output, the hearing expert: Eva Persson, and EFSA staff members: Katleen Baert and Sofia Ioannidou for the support provided to this scientific opinion. The CONTAM Panel acknowledges all European competent institutions and other stakeholders that provided occurrence data on malachite green and leucomalachite green in food, and supported the data collection for the Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database.


  • malachite green
  • leucomalachite green
  • fish and fish products
  • crustaceans
  • reference point for action
  • dye
  • risk assessment


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