E Ritz et al. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109(4): 49-55
Phosphate Additives in Food—a Health Risk
While generally regarded as safe, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests room for doubt about this designation. There is a coherent mechanism, via the effect of phosphates on calcium, that would predict problems with existing heart disease and even causation. Risks so far have been measured as small.
Liability risk managers have to assess the potential product liability exposure, keeping in mind that some of the predicted outcomes are indivisible. There are also potential D&O risks associated with insensitive handling of this story.
Added to the uncertainties in the science itself, and food/nutrition science is notoriously unreliable, are uncertainties in factual exposure, the likely role of other causes of manifest disease including foods naturally high in phosphates, latency effects, who eats this kind of food, how common is a high blood phosphate level, what is the likely view of the courts on what are, essentially, lifestyle choices? Individual vs class actions.
Exposure to phosphate additives has been increasing rapidly in the past ten years.
These are the conditions in which a liability insurer should make a preliminary assessment, starting with a view as to portfolio exposure to users and producers of food grade phosphates.
In a very brief survey of recent scientific publications the view is that causation is rated as better than just possible; plausible but not probable. If there was evidence of a conspiracy to suppress information, a jury might be more inclined to accept causation. The paper by Ritz et al. has already appeared on the inorganic phosphate consortium list of publications for further assessment. There has been a public statement concerning the Ritz paper. http://www.foodadditives.org/phosphates/Phosphate-Industry-Responds-to-Phosphate-Additives-in-Food-a-Health-Risk.pdf