Aluminium in Food and Water Supply: An Australian Perspective
This report was produced for the Urban Water Research Association of Australia, a now discontinued research program.
Report No UWRAA 202
Aluminium is widespread in our environment and occurs naturally as part of our food and water supply. It is also introduced into foods and water through processing practices including the use of aluminium-containing additives. This report seeks to provide a database of food and beverage sources of aluminium; to provide an estimated amount of aluminium consumed by the Australian population from food and beverages; and to indicate the relative contribution to total aluminium intake from water supplied by urban and regional water treatment services.
Information on the aluminium content of water supplied in major Australian metropolitan areas was collected. About two thirds of Australians live in these areas. Australian data on the aluminium content of foods and beverages where available, were combined with international values to create a database of aluminium in foods and beverages. To supplement this information analyses of key food items were performed; these included salt, extruded snack foods, bottled water, cakes and cake-mixes.
Dietary intake information was obtained from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey. The aluminium content of foods as described above was applied to food and beverage quantities as consumed, to provide estimates of aluminium intake for Australians aged over 2 years. The main dietary contributors to aluminium intake were the cereal and cereal products food group and non-alcoholic beverages. The use of aluminium-containing food additives considerably increased the aluminium content of the foods to which they were added. They were most commonly added to pre-mix cakes, and table and dietary salts.
Mean aluminium intakes for adults, attributable to dietary sources, were estimated to be in the vicinity of 4.9-6.5 mg/day, with 1-2% from tap water. The aluminium intakes of children and adolescents were estimated to be 3.0-5.9 mg per day, again with 1-2% from tap water. These values do not exceed the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)(World Health Organization, 1989)provisional tolerable weekly intake of 7 mg aluminium/kg body weight.
This report is one of a three-part series. The first report entitled “Biological Aspects of Food and Water Supply” by Cumming (1996) considered the health-related aspects of aluminium intake. This report seeks to describe the total estimated aluminium taken from dietary sources; it makes no attempt to differentiate between aluminium fractions. The speciation of aluminium may be important in determining the relative risk of absorption of any aluminium consumed. To date, the effect of speciation on aluminium absorption has not been clearly determined. However relative bioavailability of aluminium from foods and water has been addressed in the other report of this series by Stauber, Davies, Adams and Buchanan (1998).